Every four seconds, smoking takes another life and on ‘World No Tobacco Day’, South Africans are most likely giving the middle finger to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Given the situation of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe and its dangerous attack on human respiratory systems, smokers are at one of the highest risks of severe infection. According to studies published by the European Respiratory Journal, it is smoking that raises the risk of Covid-19 infection by elevating enzymes which allow the coronavirus to gain access into lung cells. Smokers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have the chance of elevated levels of a protein called ACE-2; this enzyme aids the virus in entering lung cells, where it replicates.
Lockdown regulations in South Africa includes a restriction on the sale of tobacco and related products in order to flatten the curve of Covid-19 infection in the country. Globally, there is reportedly 1.3 billion tobacco users and that number would be even larger if tobacco didn’t kill half of the smoking population. Today, May 31, 2020, a global campaign aims to debunk myths and expose devious tactics employed by tobacco industries to drive a purchase of a tobacco-related product. This campaign remains an important one now as studies show that smokers have a higher risk for a severe case of coronavirus infection.
On World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls on all young people to join the fight to become a tobacco-free generation.
Decades of the tobacco industry’s deception and devious tactics have hooked generations of users to nicotine and tobacco, driving this global epidemic. The multi-billion-dollar industry recruits new tobacco and nicotine users to reward investors with as much profit as possible and keep its business alive. Tobacco and related industries have increasingly preyed on children and adolescents, employing advertising tactics and targeting them directly with a new portfolio of products that threaten their health. These industries are moving at a rapid speed to launch existing and new products and use every means to expand their market share before regulations can catch up with them.
Tobacco and related industries continue to oppose evidence-based measures, such as increases in excise taxes and comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and have threatened legal actions against governments that try to protect the health of their citizens.
Quitting smoking in the time of a pandemic
“Today is the best time to quit smoking. People are now worried about immunity, respiratory issues and are willing to adopt healthy practices. It’s the most appropriate time to launch a drive, ‘Smoking ko karo na’ and to make people aware of the harmful effects of tobacco,” explained Dr Ravi Gaur, chief operating officer, Lab Director Oncquest Labs.
What should take your breath away?
Given the pandemic, when the infected person spits, the saliva loaded with virus forms the droplets in the air and risks the entire population in the sphere of influence. A public awareness drive and better industrial resolve, will help to reduce or even stop the use of tobacco products.
Smoking suppresses immunity and increases the risk of being infected with diseases related to respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 or tuberculosis. Smokers are susceptible as fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) come in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth.
Quitting smoking helps bring the heartbeat back to normal in 20 minutes; within a day, blood levels of carbon monoxide fall; in few weeks, the risk of getting heart attack reduces and finally over a long period of time, you reduce the risk of getting lung, oral and other cancers. Agreed Dr Vikas Goswami, senior consultant and medical oncologist, Max Hospital, “There is no iota of doubt that tobacco usage is a leading cause of cancer. People who consume tobacco in any form be it in the form of smoking or chewing or even exposed to second-hand smoke have an increased risk of cancer because of many chemicals that damage the DNA.”
However, most smokers suffer from addiction, so a sudden unavailability is likely to plunge people into withdrawal. Thus, there is a need to have an infrastructure to support people through this difficult phase. There are many alternatives like nicotine patches or gums, but those are costly. A reduction in cost will ensure long-term benefits and a healthier nation. If you are determined and care for yourself and your loved ones, keep trying to quit!
Annually, the World Health Organization (WHO) drives initiatives on May 31 as World No Tobacco Day. The annual event highlights the health risks associated with tobacco use and exposure by – advocating governments to draft effective policies that aid reduction of tobacco consumption, decreasing children’s exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS), and encourage cessation and tobacco control policy.
This year’s theme “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use” focuses on empowering young people to engage in the fight against Big Tobacco.