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World No Tobacco Day is celebrated worldwide on 31st May every year to encourage tobacco users to abstain from consumption of all forms of tobacco for a period of at least 24 hours. It is an opportunity to educate people around the globe about the harmful effects of tobacco they force on themselves with its consumption. “No Indian can afford to smoke. Death caused due to smoke related heart disease is one of the worst ways to die. You aren’t smoking a cigarette, rather it is smoking you” says Dr.Anil Dhall. Tobacco is killing 800,000 people every year in India, damaging the heart of 12 million with its harmful nature. But what’s more alarming is that the proportion of all deaths in India attributable to tobacco is set to rise substantially, from 1.4% in 1990 to 13.3% by 2020*. Thus with the current levels of health awareness increasing among the masses, it is imperative to reinforce the harmful effects of Tobacco in our lives and how it can adversely affect our heart. Speaking on the day, Dr. Anil Dhall, renowned cardiologist, Head-Department of Cardiology, Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon says, “India is facing smoking catastrophe, and its immediate effect is on a person’s heart. Tobacco in any shape- cigarette, beedi or oral chewing poses a threat to life expectancy by 15-25 years. If you are a smoker, you are twice more likely to have a heart attack than a non-smoker.” “Tobacco smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide which affects the heart by reducing the amount of oxygen the blood is able to carry. This means that the heart, lungs, brain, and other vital organs do not always receive enough oxygen to perform everyday functions. At the same time, nicotine forces an increase in heart rate and blood pressure over time, thus causing extraordinary “wear and tear” on the cardiovascular system resulting in a heart ailment.” says Dr. Dhall. India, with its population brimming more than one billion today is likely to account for more than 60 per cent of heart disease patients worldwide. And the major factor contributing to these heart diseases is tobacco consumption. Nearly 30% of all heart disease deaths are caused by cigarette smoking including the oral use of smokeless tobacco products. Out of all the risk factors which promote heart ailments, smoking affects worst as it speed up the clogging and narrowing of coronary arteries. “It promotes a heart attack when a blood clot forms at a narrowed point in a coronary artery and suddenly blocks the flow of blood to the heart. Besides, cigarette smoking is an important risk factor for stroke. Inhaling cigarette smoke produces several effects that damage the cerebrovascular system. Women who take oral contraceptives and smoke increase their risk of stroke many times. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral arterial disease and aortic aneurysm.” adds Dr. Dhall. Thus we need to highlight the dangerous health risks associated with tobacco use more aggressively to the people. Tobacco control requires a comprehensive approach. Policy-level interventions including levy of taxes, regulation of tobacco products, measures to reduce supply, appropriate advertising programs notifying the demerits of tobacco, pictorial representations, community level public awareness programmes for empowering people with the knowledge to abstain from and eventually abandon the use of tobacco habit is of immediate necessity. Also appropriate services like counseling, de-addiction centers should be established across the nation to save it from becoming a capital of heart ailments.

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