Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Are you still smoking?

It is a tale as dramatic as Homer and as ludicrous as Humpty Dumpty. It starts with enjoyment and pleasure and ends with tragedy and death.

It is the Odyssey of Tobacco.

Rather, it is man’s addiction to tobacco.

For years we have hammered and beaten the subject, here, there and everywhere. The campaign against smoking has proved to be fair to poor. Despite irrefutable proof that cigarettes can kill you, people are still smoking. Cancer, heart disease, emphysema and 32 other diseases matter little, once you feel the effect of a puff you are hooked.

Every cigarette you smoke cuts five to 11 seconds from your life. That elegant, graceful innocent-looking item, once an icon of sophistication, contains an army of killers aiming at you.

What are those killers in tobacco that gradually end our lives prematurely, approximately 15 years sooner than non-smokers?

Those dangerous substances are: carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that interferes with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen; nicotine, a deadly drug that reaches you within 10 seconds of when it enters your body; tar contains small quantities of carcinogenic substances causing lung cancer; smoke particles, as small as 0.00036 millimetres, most of which are exhaled but at least 25 per cent are trapped on the lining of the lungs and absorbed by the cells. They cause progressive destruction of the air sacs in the lungs.

The only way to stop smoking is never to start.

That first puff gives you relief, delight and bliss.

It causes the brain to release adrenaline that creates a buzz of energy, ecstasy, but it quickly fades. You want that buzz again. The up and down cycle happens over and over. You become addicted to that euphoric feeling and the body craves that feeling.

 This never-ending cycle is why those who start have difficulty stopping. It cannot be emphasised enough — never start.

For over 50 years we have known that smoking can kill you, yet millions are still smoking and thousands more pick the habit each year.

According to the US Center for Disease Control, in 1965 40 per cent of the American population smoked, now it has been reduced to 14 per cent after an extremely aggressive campaign by the government. That still means 40 million are still lighting up — 443,000 die each year from smoking.

Younger people enjoy it, older people are addicted. “Smoking is my best friend,” says an old die-hard. Even as it gets harder to find a place to smoke, they manage.

Lung cancer was once a very rare disease, now it is a global epidemic.

Cigarettes were recognised as the cause of the epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s. Manufacturers fiercely disputed the claims and a conspiracy to hide the evidence began in earnest.

Hollywood paid notice and produced a highly esteemed film in 1999, The Insider, based on a true story of a whistleblower in a tobacco manufacturing company, threatening to reveal the company’s secrets. Directed by Michael Mann and starring Al Pacino and Russel Crowe the film was nominated for seven Oscars and received rave reviews.

The US and the UK have seen significant decline, now manufacturers are targeting women, teens and Asians.

Cigarettes kill one in 10 adults globally. This amounts to four million deaths a year. By 2030 it will be one in six.

Every eight seconds someone dies of tobacco use.

Some 15 billion cigarettes are sold daily, that is 10 million every minute.

The World Health Organisation claims the highest smoking rate is in the Western Pacific region where two-thirds of men smoke. According to their report, the Brits smoke the least and the 10 highest smokers are in Andorra, Luxembourg, Belarus, Macedonia, Albania, Belgium, Czech Republic, Jordan, Russia and Syria.

Tobacco use among women is 63 per cent to 46 per cent by men.

When Christopher Columbus sailed to the new world the natives were occasionally smoking tobacco in long pipes, only for medical and religious purposes. Carved drawings in stone show tobacco use by Mayans dating back to 600 AD. Columbus took back some seeds to Europe, where the plant was first used as a medicine for relaxation. In 1560 a French diplomat, Jean Nicot, introduced the use of tobacco — hence the botanical name “Nicotania”.

Even back then European physicians declared that tobacco should be used only for medicinal reasons… no one heeded them then… and millions do not heed the scientific evidence now. Cocaine is easier to beat than a cigarette.

The first commercial cigarettes were made in Virginia, US, in 1865 and the first American tobacco company was formed. Cigarettes were rationed for soldiers in WWI, mostly WWII. With the men at war tobacco companies started marketing to women and teens. By 1944 cigarette production reached 350 billion.

Are we gullible, stupid, uninformed or simply do not care to live long, healthier lives?

If you think you are safer turning to the hookah, the water pipe, known as nargileh, arguila, shisha, hubbly bubbly etc, think again. Not only does it carry the same risks as cigarette smoking, it has more. Those enticing tobacco flavourful juices irritate the mouth, increase the risk of oral cancer and clogged arteries.

Hookah cafés are becoming more and more popular around the world — the US, Russia, France and of course the Middle East.

We have been reduced to begging every smoker of those myriad methods to quit, if not for yourself do it for your family and friends. Second-hand smoking also kills.

“And finds, with keen discriminating sight. Black’s not so black — nor white so very white.”
George Canning (I770-1827)


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