Dangers of Smoking
A call is received to pick up a carton of fresh tomatoes on the way home, and as you go through the varieties you find a box that looks better than all the rest and in better condition; farm fresh, red, plump and still firm. You decide to purchase that box when you notice a label that consuming these tomatoes may cause allergies and are dangerous to your health. Would you still buy them or would you look for an alternate tomato which may not be as perfect yet claims to be organic and healthy?
This is the case for many of the choices that we face in our daily lives; from artificial sweeteners, genetically modified foods and most of all, the consumption of tobacco products which are clearly labeled in some manner.
Each country may have their own type of warning; usually “This product is hazardous to your health and may cause cancer”. However, the new trend now is to not depend only upon words but also pictures which are sometimes very graphic to get the point across that smoking is very harmful to the body. Since most of cigarettes are imported into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, each package will be labeled according to the particular company producing that brand.
However, how effective are labels in deterring people from actually smoking?
Recent efforts to decrease dependence and addiction to tobacco have induced many places into passsing laws requiring the packaging to contain visual warnings of smoking effects. Some are of lung cancer, oral cancer, tooth damage, and premature ageing caused by heavy smoking.
Taken from the World Health Organization (WHO) the results of a survey showed that:
In Canada, 58% of smokers said the warnings made them think more about the health effects of smoking.
In Brazil, 67% of smokers said the warnings made them want to quit, and 54% said they made them change their opinion about the health consequences of smoking.
In Singapore, 28% of smokers said the warnings made them smoke fewer cigarettes, and one out of six said they avoided smoking in front of children as a result of the warnings.
In Thailand, 44% of smokers said the warnings made them "a lot" more likely to quit over the next month, and 53% said they made them think "a lot" about the health risks.
Smoking trends have changed over the past decade. The habit was once seen as something cool to do and being around friends who smoked often encouraged others to start the habit. And according to the Saudi Heart Association, the latest statistics show that 30% of Saudis smoke and are in the age group between 17-40 years old. What also causes concern is that smoking is spreading with youth especially those in high school and in college. However, recent trends show that more people are choosing not to smoke in lieu of a healthier life style. Recently, the National Guard Health Affairs portal conducted a poll on smoking and found that of the respondents, 26% did smoke, 63% did not, and only 11% smoked socially. Additionally, the change in advertising against smoking, especially with graphic pictures, seems to have had a great affect. WHO chose pictorial warnings as the 2009 theme for World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2009 in an effort to convey a more effective message. The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has launched a similar graphics based campaign.
The reason for such a determined campaign is because smoking greatly harms the body. For women who are pregnant, smoking causes several problems to the unborn child. These children are frequently born premature, underweight, have problems thriving after birth and often suffer from learning disabilities later on in school. Further issues include risks of spontaneous abortion, birth defects or abnormalities. Additionally, “Infants born to mothers who smoke are more likely to develop colds, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases such as asthma. The odds of developing asthma are twice as high among children whose mothers smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day.” (Smoking Facts) It is also important to remember that even things such as nicotine can cross into the breast milk and affect the baby. Many mothers are confused as to why their infant seems stimulated without realizing that could be due to the nicotine.
Smoking causes many diseases, a short list which includes but is not limited to:
Cancer of several major organs: pancreas, breast, lungs, kidney liver, and the stomach.
Cancer of the mouth, throat, lips and voice box.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Circulatory problems, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease (heart attacks).
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis or asthmatic symptoms.
Increased susceptibility to the common cold and influenza.
Increased tooth decay and gum disease.
Damages the bones and increases risk of having osteoporosis
An additional issue related to smoking is that of second-hand smoke. Those who choose not to smoke are often exposed to cigarette or cigar smoke and have little choice except to ask for the cigarette to be put out. Due to the enormous amount of research proving the negative effects of second-hand smoke, many companies and public places are banning smoking or providing specific areas for those who choose to smoke. Second-hand smoke is more deadly because the person inhaling the fumes does so without a filter and its effects include all those above and more. Second-hand smoke is especially difficult for children as it increases the number of middle ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
Further awareness should be given to smoking when the compounds in cigarettes are known and the harmful effects upon the body explained. Nicotine, the main compound in tobacco, reaches the brain within ten seconds of being inhaled. Additional components include arsenic (rat poison), formaldehyde (one use is as a preservative in funeral homes and medical labs), ammonia, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and lead. These and many others found in cigarettes are known cancer causing agents. Most cigarettes actually contain up to 4,000 ingredients which can turn into compound chemicals when they are burned. Naturally, these cause damage to the lining of the lungs and as smoking continues over years, the internal tissues of the lungs are also damaged.
Therefore, it continues to be an important concern to educate people on the effects and consequences of smoking. Long term damage done to the lungs and other organs in the body can lead to several irreversible illnesses. Visual warnings on packages, banners in public places, educational programs in schools and universities, newspapers and magazines are just a few ways that the negative impact of smoking can be clearly imprinted on the minds of smokers. Most importantly - it is never too late to give up this dangerous habit.