Smoking is the most rampant form of drug use in the world only second after alcohol. Tobacco smoking is attributed to many cases of preventable mortalities but still remains prevalent in the society as Fong (4) comments. It has become the centre of health concern world wide due to its adverse effects on people’s health. As a result, it has emerged as the source of debate by environmental health crusaders and human health experts alike who are concerned by the effect of the second hand smoke. Of their major concern is the rampant spread of the smoking trend among the youth and women in addition to the harmful effects it poses to the non smokers or the so called second hand smokers.
This poses a serious problem especially with the danger of contracting respiratory illnesses smoking related cancers that are rising dramatically around the world. According WHO (2004 p. 34), cigarettes smoking in the 20th century proved to be more hazardous than the one smoked in the 19th century. Governments are spending billions of money annually in treating smoking induced illnesses the world over. Considering the high risks involved and the impact it has on the economic wellbeing of the country, then the obvious question anyone would ask himself is: Why can’t we ban smoking in totality? I will seek to discuss the answers to this question later in the topic.
Effects of smoking
Smoking is very harmful to the body as a result of the highly toxic compounds contained in the raw materials which is mainly tobacco. Cigarettes contain approximately 4000 chemicals out of which hundreds are highly toxics to the body (Martin para. 1). The effects however vary from one individual to another depending on their vulnerability to these chemicals and the amount of sticks of cigar smoked daily. Recent research shows that smoking related medical complications are killing hundred of thousands of people annually across the globe. Millions of others are bedridden in hospitals undergoing treatment of related illnesses.
Smokers run an extremely high risk of developing respiratory tract illnesses like pneumonia and chronic bronchitis in addition to emphysema, coronary diseases, cancers and stomach ulcers. The combination of nicotine which is the active ingredient in tobacco and carbon dioxide temporarily increases ones heart rate and the blood pressure thereby straining the heart and related blood vessels. This in the long run increases the risk of getting heart attacks and also strokes to an extent.
The reason for the stroke is the consequential reduction of the rate of blood flow which starves the supply of oxygen to the upper and the lower limps. This sometimes leads to amputation as the only last resort to save the patients. Another potentially harmful consequence of smoking is the exposure to emphysema a condition that leads to the rotting of the lungs and also increases the chances of heart attacks. It has also been found to lead to fat deposits along the walls of nerves eventually narrowing them resulting to heart attacks.
Smoking also affects the physical outlook of an individual by altering his outlook. One of the ways it achieves this is through yellowing of teeth due to presence of large quantities of tar in tobacco. It also causes gum diseases and tooth decay which results to loss of teeth. Another effect is the cancer of the mouth which is potentially fatal to a smoker. Another dangerous effect according to martin (2008 para.4) is a chemical called hydrogen cyanide in cigars which attack the bronchial lining causing inflammation and eventually chronic cough. The resultant impairment of secretions along the linings of the lungs causes chronic coughing to the victims.
On another side, smoking also affects the digestive system of human beings. For example, the tar in cigarette smoke causes cancer of the esophagus and throat. Smoking also causes excess secretion of acid in the stomach which can cause ulcers. The probability of pancreatic and bladder cancer is greatly increased by smoking due to the presence of carcinogens in the body fluids.
Drug addiction is posing a serious problem in the modern world. In many countries people are getting addicted to cigarettes at a very tender age thus aggravating the health concerns treatment and rehabilitation are proving to be out of reach of the majority of the smokers across the globe as a result of poverty. Due to the expensive medical care, many of those who fall ill as a result of the smoking related illnesses finally succumb to these illnesses. Furthermore those addicted to the habit find it very difficult to abandon the habits due to the withdrawal symptoms accompanying it. These include headaches, loss of concentration and loss of sleep, nervousness and heightened cravings. These are the effects that hook a smoker into the habit.
Smoking also poses a potential threat to pregnant women and lactating mothers by increasing the risk of low birth weight and spontaneous abortions. Traces of nicotine have been noted in every body part and in breast milk. Riordan, Jan, Auerbach & Kathleen (2005 569) says that smoking causes both production problems and low milk in lactating mothers. This presents a high risk to the survival of the infant and also the fetus. The premature births cause psychological anguish for the mother aggravating the pain. The rising prevalence of cervical and breast cancer is also worrying trend in women all over the world. Research reveals that smoking increases the risk of contracting the disease. Treatment of these diseases is quite expensive and unaffordable to many people and also imposes heavy financial strain to those who can afford.
Cigarette smoking has been found to place a heavy toll on a country’s economy as a result of the resultant health implications on its populace. For example in Australia alone, the estimated social cost of smoking was found to be $31 billion annually against an annual revenue injection of 71 billion into the economy. This means that its cost out weighs its benefits by far. In any case the profits generated by the multinational companies are repatriated hence canceling out the benefits accrued from the industry. Economic analysts argue out that the employment opportunities created by the industry are negligible compared the costs it imposes on the nationals of a country.
This is because the healthcare cost alone surpasses the revenues and incomes generated by the industry. However measures taken to curb smoking have been met with sharp criticism from the industrial players and politicians who argue on the basis of potential loss of revenue and employment in the economy. The dominance of the industry by the multinational that are very influential in the government makes it had to enact anti tobacco bills which have failed in many countries. The few progresses that have been made so far are in slapping ban on smoking in public places and ban of advertisements which have been implemented in a few countries.
The current smoking trends among the youth and school going children are appalling. As the South Africa Child and Human Rights organization (2004 Para. 1) observes the on going blame game among stakeholders is not helping the situation. Some have even accused the youth of adopting carefree lifestyles but tend not give attention to those who abet the vice namely the gullible sellers and manufacturers of cigars.
The carefree attitude is placing a heavy premium on the underage group due to their vulnerability to the drug related illnesses. This could be accounted for the high prevalence of young people suffering from drug induced illnesses in the society today and that which is consistently rising with the day. The trends are worrying to both the health experts and parents alike among other stakeholders. But the largest culprit is the moral decadence and the break down of the cultural norms that guide behavior in the society. With the falling of the social fiber, it is not uncommon today to find parents sending their children to buy them cigars and also smoking in their presence.
Since behavior is learnt, the children tend to get socialized in the ways and finally find them selves puffing away the smoke to the detriment of their parents. Further more smoking of cigars in the midst only exposes them to second hand smoking which is as equally dangerous. Much to the dismay of everyone, the same parents go on to reprimand their children and are even heard complaining about their children habits when they catch on them. This leaves us wondering as to who is responsible for the blame.
Our media and celebrities are also parties to blame for portraying the smoking habit as adorable. The media today is awash with cigarette advertisements that encourage smoking. By endorsing celebrities to promote their brands, they present smoking as an enviable habit an idea that works magically among the youth who embrace their idols easily along with their habits. Furthermore the lives of these celebrities and even their stage acts portray smoking as positive which has the effect of encouraging the underage children to adopt the vice.
The glamour surrounding the act only lures the youth to it as it deludes their minds filling them with misplaced reality which pushes them to try the habit. Furthermore if their favorite stars do smoke, why not them? It is thus not uncommon today to see chain smokers youths who are already struggling with addiction. Due to the early courting of the vice, they tend to consume more latter in their lives which shortens their lifespan extensively.
Second hand smoke
Second hand smoking is potentially as dangerous as conventional smoking in all aspects. Perhaps it becomes even worse when one considers that those risks are imposed on one by a third party. For example, in United States 46000 deaths from heart attacks occur annually among nonsmokers who live amongst smokers while lung cancer kills an additional 3400 non smoking adult while others are treated for smoking related breathing problems.
Health records also reveal that between 150000 and 300000 lung infections are reported in the country annually among children which is quite alarming. Other diseases like asthma, ear infections and breast cancer are also on the rise among non smokers world wide. Studies reveal that both conventional and second hand smoke contain 20 chemicals. Exposure to high concentration of cigar smoke has been noted to cause breast cancer in rodents. In fact the 2006 US Surgeon General report suspected a possible link between second hand smoke and breast cancer.
It had been reported that second smoking was responsible for 3000 lung cancer deaths in United States in 1993 according to the report submitted by United States Environmental Protection Agency. Other notable risks included asthma, bronchitis, allergy and ear infections. Those women that were exposed at home and at work were found to present increased risk of heart attacks. The second hand smoke is known to have more carcinogens than the mainstream smoke.
The smoker inhales 15% while releasing the rest to the air. According to the American Lung Association, the risk factor due to lung diseases associated with second hand smoking currently stands at 20% of the population. Those who live with smokers present a high risk of lung cancer and heart attacks recording a 30% risk. In Canada the statistics are equally shocking where 1000 people die annually due to second hand smoke. Boyle (2004, p. 289) on his part observes that smoking was found by the World Health Organization in its 1999 consultation to cause respiratory illnesses, reduced birth weight, middle ear diseases and reduced lung functions.
Control of second hand smoke
Various attempts have been made across the world to contain second hand smoking and its effects on human beings. The war against second hand smoking was kicked off in 1980s with the demonstration by scientist that nicotine was highly addictive (Bonnie, 2007 p. 8).
A number of both public and work place policies have been made and implemented with mixed levels of successes. As a result remarkable progress has been achieved in several nations with marked decline in the rate of passive smoking worldwide. Many countries have enacted tobacco bills which are achieving remarkable success especially in curbing smoking in public places. Employers have also put restriction in smoking at work places thus helping to save non smokers from unnecessary anguish imposed by the smokers on them. Special smoking zones have been created in workplaces and public spaces to curb the negative attributes of public smoking.
In addition, various nations around the world have set up authorities to control and investigate the effects of smoking and give recommendations to the implementing authorities. This has aided the governments in developing policy papers geared towards protecting the general public from second hand smoking. This in return has facilitated the drafting of effective and comprehensive policy legislations and also enhanced the countries to undertake public awareness initiatives using the collected data and findings. It has also empowered the authorities to end of attacks from the multi national companies through law suits that were quite rampant thus hindering the implementation of these policies.
Bonnie, Richard J. Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation. Washington, DC: The National Academy Press, 2007.
Boyle, Peter. Tobacco and public health: science and policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Fong, Calvin B. Smoking and health research frontiers. New York: Nova science publishers, 2006.
Martin, Terry. The Effects of Smoking on Human Health. 2008. Web.
Riordan, Jan, Auerbach and Kathleen G. Breastfeeding and human lactation. Michigan: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1999.
South Africa Child and Human Rights organization. Drug Abuse: The Deteriorating Scenario among Youth. 2004. Web.
World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer Tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking. Tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking, Lyon: International Agency for Research on cancer, 2004.