Third Eye

Stop smoking to protect yourself and loved ones

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021 00:00 |
Tobacco farming. Photo/Courtesy

Dr Jeldah Nyamache     

On May 31, the world marked the No-Tobacco Day which is dedicated to raising awareness on the dangers of active and passive tobacco smoking.

It is a conversation that cannot be undertaken once in a year because smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the world.

Allow me therefore to give you a not-so-gentle reminder of why you need to quit smoking.

Smoking increases the risk of getting more than 50 non-communicable diseases, some of which may be fatal while others may cause irreversible long-term complications. 

It is one of the two modifiable risk factors (alcohol being the other) for about 40 per cent of cancers. 

It accounts for 25 per cent of all cancer deaths globally and approximately 70 per cent of lung cancer cases are attributed to tobacco smoking.

Smokers are up to 22 times more likely to develop lung cancer in their lifetime compared to non-smokers.

Using both alcohol and tobacco causes a 5-fold increased risk of developing cancers of the oral cavity, oropharynx, larynx and oesophagus compared to people who use either. For heavy users, the risk is up to 30 times higher.

People who do not use tobacco but are exposed to second-hand smoke at home, work or in other places also have an increased risk of developing the same non-communicable diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, problems with blood circulation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, complications in pregnancy such as ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages.

When you stop smoking, you therefore not only protect yourself but also those around you, including your loved ones.

This is because passive smoking has been proven to increase the risk of lung cancer and heart disease by 24 per cent and 25 per cent respectively in both children and adults. Children are specifically at most risk.

It is not easy to quit smoking. It is, however, never too late to start taking even small steps in order to improve your quality of life.

Tobacco products contain dozens of dangerous chemicals that make you more prone to potentially serious health problems and related frustration. 

Lung cancer is largely preventable and almost nine out of 10 cases can be prevented if smokers quit.

The benefits of quitting are almost immediate. After just 20 minutes of quitting, heart rate drops. Within 2–12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases.

Within 1–9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. After 10 years of quitting, the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.

A study conducted in 2013 by the Centre for Global Health Research and published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people who quit before the age of 40 lower their risk of dying from a smoking-related cause by about 90 per cent. At 50, people can regain six years of life expectancy.

At 60, it’s three years. People who have a history of heart attack related to smoking can cut the chance of a second heart attack to half by quitting.

Smoking has been proven to limit one’s fitness levels. You develop easier and quicker shortness of breath, making any physical activity much harder. 

Several strategies have been proposed and enacted by governments to reduce the prevalence of smoking.

These include health education, awareness raising and World Health Organisation-recommended health policies which limit exposure to health-harming products as well as their affordability.

However, it should really be a matter of deliberate personal effort to stop for your own sake and that of others around you. — The writer is a registered Family Practitioner [email protected]

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