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World No Tobacco Day: Cigarette smoking and its impact on passive smokers

World No Tobacco Day

Tobacco use has been dated back to over 2000 yrs ago. Nicotine, the active ingredient of tobacco is highly addictive and its addiction potential is comparable to that of Heroin or Cocaine. One of the most combustible and easily accessible forms of consuming tobacco is Cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking has evolved and penetrated into every strata of the society over the years. The result has not been something to be proud about; it has just increased the number of premature deaths. Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death worldwide.

  • Around 14.6% of youth aged 13-15 yrs consume tobacco
  • The number increases to around 57% in youth aged 18-49 years
  • A study conducted in Chandigarh reported prevalence of tobacco smoking to be 25% among youth of 15–24yrs of age
  • Around 23% of men and 8% of women between the ages of 35–69 years die every year because of tobacco use

The predominant reasons behind Cigarette smoking are psychological. The three commonest influences associated with youth smoking are – peer pressure, following an example of a parent or sibling, and employment away from home. An actively smoking family member increases the chances of smoking in the child by up to four times!

Cigarette smoking not only affects the Lungs adversely, but has severe impact on other organs of the body as well. The commonest diseases that smoking causes are Lung Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Coronary Artery Disease and Stroke. Unfortunately, these are also the top four commonest causes of death worldwide. More than 4000 chemicals are identified in cigarette smoke, of which 250 are known to be extremely harmful. Smoking just one Cigarette per day increases the risk of Coronary Artery Disease by 48% and Strokes by 25%, as reported by a study in UK. Smoking is hazardous not only to the smoker but to individuals around the smoker as well. The dangers of passive smoking were suspected as early as 1928. Schonherr reported ‘inhalation of husband’s smoke as a cause for Lung Cancer in their non-smoking wives’.

People at work place and home are at maximum risk of passive smoking.

  • Passive smoking has been positively associated with increased risk of Lung Cancer, Colorectal Cancer and Cervical Cancer
  • Existing scientific studies suggest that passive smoking and active smoking equally increase the risk of Breast Cancer as well
  • The second hand smoke can cause Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a progressive life threatening disease commonly associated with smokers
  • It is also associated with increased risk of Pulmonary Tuberculosis, a health hazard in which India leads
  • A 30min exposure to passive smoke has been found to affect the coronary blood flow reserves in non-smoking individuals
  • Passive smoking also worsens Allergic Rhinitis, Allergic Dermatitis and Asthma

The risks of passive smoking among the children who are exposed to it are manifold and disheartening.

  • It is positively associated with physician diagnosed Childhood Asthma
  • Moreover, it increases the risk of severe invasive bacterial diseases like Meningitis and lower respiratory tract infection
  • Children exposed to second hand smoke showed increased Pharyngeal Bacterial Carriage of Neisseria Meningitides and Streptococcus Pneumoniae, leading to increased risk of meningitis and lower respiratory tract infections

It is clear that the effects of smoking harm the smoker and the individuals around them in a deleterious way. However, smoking cessation has been associated with reduction in the risks of these grave diseases similar to that of non-smokers. Therefore, along with prevention of smoking in the youth, smoking cessation should be encouraged and offered to every tobacco addict to improve their survival and quality of life.

Quitting smoking needs a determined effort from the smoker. He/ she needs to know the dependence is psychological and harmful for the body. Best way is to set a quit date and stop smoking point blank. Nicotine withdrawal should be expected and can be taken care of. Once a person is able to keep off smoking for around 4 weeks there is a good chance of staying off. People who fail quitting can seek medical help. Nicotine Replacement Therapy along with other pharmacological therapy is available for assistance, which increases the success of quitting.

By Dr Preyas Vaidya, Consultant Pulmonologist, Fortis Hospitals Mumbai and Navi Mumbai

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