By Edward Makuzva
Cigarette smoking is not only the most common form of tobacco use but one of the leading preventable risk factors for premature mortality worldwide. Smoking kills more than 8 million people a year, including users and non-smokers being exposed to secondary smoke.
Tobacco growing countries rely on sales, and banning smoking is not an option.
The negative costs of tobacco use to health care are not analyzed in monetary costs. However, the impact is massive.
Costs for treating diseases caused by tobacco use, for example, lung cancer, are a cause for concern.
Addressing journalists in a virtual meeting,
Clives Bates Director of Action on Smoking and Health UK, said smoking prematurely kills around 8 million people a year around the world.
Bates highlighted that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar.
The director of Action on Smoking and Health UK revealed that smoking kills more people as compared to obesity, alcohol, road accidents, drug abuse, and HIV.
Statistics revealed that around 80% of the 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide live in low – and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest. Tobacco use contributes to poverty by diverting household spending from basic needs such as food and shelter to tobacco. This spending behavior is difficult to curb because tobacco is so addictive.
Bates said that although it is not possible to precisely quantify the health risks associated with e – cigarettes, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoking tobacco products. He said it may be lower than this.
Statistics shows that smoking increases the incidences of coronary heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and diminished overall health.
“While e -cigarettes are not without health risks, they are likely to be far less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes.
“Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking.Vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, according to a major review of nicotine products, but action is needed to tackle the sharp rise in e-cigarette use among children.
“Alternative nicotine delivery systems have the potential to disrupt the 120-year dominance of the cigarettes.
“There is high certainty evidence that e-cigarettes with nicotine increase quit rates compared to NRT,” Bates explained.
Researchers said smokers who switched to vaping would experience a “substantial reduction” in their exposure to toxic substances that cause cancer, lung and cardiovascular disease, but they strongly urged non-smokers not to take up either habit.
“Nicotine is the primary agent in regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is a toxic substance.
It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack, ” researchers added.
On nicotine as a recreational drug, he said there is no compelling objection to the recreational and even addictive use of nicotine provided it is not shown to be physically, psychological, or socially harmful to the user or to others.
In Zimbabwe, vaping pens may contain harmful substances, so the pen becomes a disguise. Vaping in a high density club is different from vaping in an up-market joint.
“Vaping pens can just be a disguise with forbidden substances in the pipes,” said John Pondo, a youth from Mufakose.
“Vaping in our ghetto circles is different to vaping to the northern suburbs. We improvise with anything,” he added.
Meanwhile, the American Lung Association states smoking is the leading cause of preventable diseases and deaths globally, claiming no less than 480 000 lives in the United States alone every year.
A single cigarette stick is made up of basic components such as tobacco, chemical additives, paper wrapping, and a filter, and these appear ordinary and harmless. However, when burnt and inhaled, this combination exposes the body to over 7000 toxic chemicals, with 70 of them cancer causing.
More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while around 1.3 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.