India continues to be a major tobacco hub in the world contributing over 267 million tobacco users. The glaring fact assumes significance as nearly 28.6% of the adult population (above 15 years of age), currently uses tobacco-related products, which constitutes about 42.4% men and 14.2% women. In the 13-15 age group, 8.5% of the population uses some form of tobacco, of which boys constitute 9.6% and girls 7.4%.
To raise awareness on the damaging effects of tobacco-related products, World No Tobacco Day is observed on 31st May every year. The theme for this year’s event is ‘Tobacco is killing us and our planet’.
Dr. Zafar Ahmad Iqbal, Director, Pulmonology, Critical Care and Sleep Studies, Fortis Hospital Mohali, in an advisory explains the harmful effects of tobacco consumption on the body.
Stressing on creating awareness on the health issue, Dr Zafar, added, “At Fortis Mohali, we receive patients affected by tobacco consumption from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, and Western UP. Smoking one cigarette can shorten one’s life for nearly 10 minutes. Smoking is also linked to stillbirth, infertility and impotence.”
What is tobacco consumption?
Tobacco contains nicotine which releases dopamine in the brain, making it an addictive drug. Its consumption includes cigarette smoking, gutka, bidi etc. which lead to absorption of cancer-causing chemicals in the body.
Consumption of tobacco causes symptoms such as a nagging cough, breathlessness, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, blood in sputum, loss of appetite and weight, change in voice quality, urinary infections etc.
Using tobacco-related products can cause cancers of the lungs, mouth, tongue, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, colon, rectum, bladder and cervix, blood cancer, COPD related breathing problems, strokes, heart diseases, dental and visual problems.
Prevention better than cure
Dr Zafar says small efforts at the individual level can go a long way in curbing the practice. “A strong will and commitment can help one quit smoking and consuming tobacco products. Fortis Mohali offers medical assistance and counselling to people in this regard. Start by reducing the number of cigarettes smoked daily and, then finally stopping altogether. Reach out to friends and family who can help you tide over the problem.”
As a word of caution, Dr Zafar, added, “Those who continue to smoke or have smoked for a long period of time should get themselves screened for cardiovascular diseases. Don’t keep waiting for the symptoms to surface. Regular follow-up can help detect cancer at an early stage.”