The slogan, Smokers are liable to die young has long slipped from genuine health warning tag on tobacco adverts; it has become another decoy on cigarette packs.
Smoking, the practice of lighting up and inhaling smoke from substances rolled up substances straight into the blood stream, was once frowned at by societies across the globe, but the practice continued until it grew into a uniform of a class, a vogue that became a habit and addiction.
Most of the time, the substance is known to be dried leaves of tobacco plant; when the smell is breathed in, it delivers some kind of active substance that can be poisonous into the lungs where the human blood absorbs it into the tissues.
Among substances known are cigarettes of different brands, weed, marijuana, tobacco, cannabis, Indian hemp, opium etc.
In the early days, medical science had identified smoking as the cause of so many health issues like cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), lung cancer, asthma etc.
Secondary smokers, as they are classified, are people that are close to, or always around regular smokers.
According to medics, they are more liable to develop smoking-related diseases than the regular smokers; this is because their lungs are not used to the smoke of burnt substances which the regular smoker’s lung is adapted to.
A specialist in paediatrics at the Shomolu General Hospital, in Shomolu LCDA, Lagos, Dr. Bello Teslim Aisha, responding to the danger inherent in smoking, confirmed that medically, smoking can be dangerous to health.
Her words: “Smoking affects the alveolar in the lungs, designed to filter substances in the body.
The inhaled smoke therefore blocks the alveolar and this makes smokers vulnerable to different lung-related diseases like lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), asthma etc.
To compound the condition, cancer is classified to be a long term terminal disease.”
Expatiating more on the danger in smoking, Doc Aisha said smoking chiefly destroys the lungs, “And it will cause oxygen deficiency in the body; this is one of the major risk factors that cause cancer.”
On the attraction to youths, the paediatrician attributed the trend to peer pressure. “The habit was common among the mature and elderly citizens, but it infiltrated into youths.
The reasons for the habit are manifold, from just to “get high”, to “cooling the nerves” to showing off that they are “mature”. There is also the peer pressure and environmental orientation, among other factors.
“The habit can become addictive and very hard to stop once it is ignited. It is when teenagers see their peers smoking that they tend to belong, and this graduates to addiction.”
Indicting the government for failure of tobacco regulation, Dr. Bello told The Daily Times that government just made the law that is supposed to restrict smoking in the country, “But they are not making enough effort to enforce it.
Smokers are not supposed to smoke in public areas that can endanger non-smokers’ lives after the law was passed; secluded and restricted areas have been provided in private and public places, if they must smoke.
“But government has not made enough effort to effect the law or place outright embargo on tobacco cultivation, production and selling.
“I keep seeing smokers at different places every day; if government can enforce the law and arrest anyone who smokes in public places, and either jail them or sentence them to community service, then only would the public will take the law seriously.”, she pointed out.
“It is clear that tobacco companies are just playing safe by inscribing the warning line on cigarette packs while at same time producing the same stuff that is harmful to the health of citizens.
“May be government cannot stop the companies from doing their business, but it is important that people should be aware of how dangerous tobacco can be to their health; no matter the amount of pleasure they derive from it, it is sure to do more harm than good to them.”
In conclusion, Dr. Bello urged all governments to implement the law and punish those who break it by exposing them on the media. “This way, they will be embarrassed and this will deter other smokers not to fall victim of such fate.
She advised smokers – especially women and breastfeeding mothers – to quit this habit and stop endangering the lives of non-smokers -especially children. She suggests a possible way to help smokers quit the habit:
“Smoking can be stopped with nicotine-patch, because it is like a replacement of what is in the tobacco. We should encourage addicted smokers to use it when they feel the urge; this will help to calm their nerves and the urge for tobacco will gradually reduce to zero over time,” she advised.
A smoker, who spoke in confidence, disclosed that he just cannot stop the habit.
“I don’t remember how I got into it, but I confess I enjoy smoking; it helps me feel different and relaxed when I am with other people. Also, I can only think better when I smoke.”
On the health implication, the fellow disagreed that smoking can lead to death. His words: “Anyone who dies from smoking is destined to die at the moment. Death will come when it will come, smoking or not.”
Mrs. Regina Olufemi, a social worker identified inferiority complex as one of the factors that draw youths into smoking. “It is when youths struggle with low self esteem that they believe they need something to ‘pep them up’ before they can act.
“Government and parents have a very important role to play in other to curb young smokers because they tend to have a bleak future.
“Parents should endeavor to monitor their children and if suspicious, take them for counselling.
On the home front, parents should not be too harsh on their young teens, but rather, build self control and confidence in them. Make them your friends so they can confide in their parents when they are bothered.”
An educationist who preferred anonymity told our correspondent that government should endeavor to place a total embargo on the growing and importation of tobacco in the country.
“You can’t permit them to grow the substance and produce it and expect the public not to buy their product,” she said.