I was on my way to work at 7 in the morning as usual. What caught my attention was a child about 10 years puffing a cigarette. He seemed to be quiet comfortable with it, like someone pretty used to smoking. He seemed to be like a poor orphan or a child staying away from support of family and friends, working to fend himself and maybe supporting the family.
But he is certainly not the only one. Millions of adolescents, world over both the poor and rich take up to smoking and drugs maybe for different reasons.
This is a cause for concern for health experts all over the world. When someone starts using tobacco in any form from a young age, he is sure to get addicted. The health hazards are more severe because a growing body is delicate enough to handle the toxic substance and its toxic metabolites.
Tobacco crop creates health hazards in people cultivating it.
Those working with tobacco are at the risk of acute nicotine poisoning or, “green tobacco sickness.”
Nicotine is the addicting substance present in tobacco. Taken in any form whether smoked or chewed it has many harmful effects on the body.
It can reach peak levels in the blood stream and brain rapidly after inhalation (as in smoking) or by absorption through the oral mucosa as in those who chew tobacco in any form. It is highly addicting.
A typical smoker takes about 10 puffs of a cigarette over about 5 minutes once the cigarette is lit. Thus a person smoking about one pack daily gets about 300 hits of nicotine to the brain each day.
Nicotine is one of the 4000 odd chemicals present in cigarette smoke. When one inhales it for long, there is permanent black discoloration of the lips and nails due to the carbon in smoke.
Lungs are damaged resulting in chronic bronchitis and cancer. Nails get deformed because of the chronic lung damage leading to deficiency of oxygen in blood.
Face takes on a pinched look thus destroying the glow and beauty of the face much before chronological aging.
It is a myth that tobacco taken in any other form is safe. Even the use of snuffs and cigars is harmful.
They have many toxins and nicotine in high levels. Those who chew tobacco are at a high risk of developing cancers of the oral cavity. Some people keep tobacco in their mouths for long, probably to relish the taste.
These persons tend to develop a condition, where the mouth fails to open fully, thus creating problems in eating or talking. I have seen boys barely out of teens suffering from this condition, which has to be corrected surgically.
Blunting of vision and even complete blindness can occur due to tobacco use.
Blood supply to the limbs is diminished in tobacco consumers as nicotine causes constriction of blood vessels. The result is gangrene and amputation of the affected limb.
Neurological abnormalities develop in the form of difficulty in balancing the body and parasthesias.
Smoking during pregnancy leads to intrauterine fetal death and risk of congenital abnormalities.
Tobacco is a risk factor for causing hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases. Younger the age when one starts using it, higher is the risk.
Due to increased awareness about the health hazards of smoking or tobacco use, people in developed countries have quit it to a large extent.
The focus of tobacco manufacturers is now on the developing world i.e. countries of Asia and Africa which provide a big profitable market for them.
Adolescent and young adults are more gullible to be lured by the attractive advertisements showing a, “macho”, man smoking.
Now onus is on all the responsible persons of these countries to join in efforts to curb this menace of tobacco. Extensive education both at individual and institutional level is needed to disseminate information about the hazards of smoking Maybe like alcohol, tobacco products should also not be sold to persons less than 18 years.
Youngsters should be kept busy physically and mentally to keep them away from such harmful habits.
When someone gets a craving for smoking, he or she should try taking some harmless substance say fruits or pea nuts in small amount. Moving out and taking a stroll would also help in overcoming the desire to smoke or chew tobacco.
Let all join in saving the young from ills of tobacco.