Tobacco and lung health
Commemorated on 31 May every year, World No Tobacco Day is a day set aside by the World Health Organization to raise awareness about the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use. It also seeks to discourage tobacco usage in any form. It has been estimated that close to more than 6 million deaths are recorded annually as a result of tobacco use annually. There is no doubt that limiting tobacco use is one of the most effective ways of saving lives and improving overall well-being.
The theme of World No Tobacco Day in 2019 focuses on “tobacco and lung health.” It is intended to raise awareness on
the negative effect of tobacco on our overall lung health, from cancer to chronic respiratory disease
the importance of our lungs in our health and overall well-being
It also seeks to advocate for policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption while engaging multiple stakeholders over the issues around the control of tobacco.
Risks to lung health associated with tobacco
Exposure to tobacco leads to serious conditions such as
Tuberculosis – This is in itself a potentially debilitating disease which causes damage to the lungs and reduces their function. Tobacco smoking only serves to worsen this condition and may even trigger dormant TB infections. Active TB, compounded by the damaging lung health effects of tobacco smoking, substantially increases risk of disability and death from respiratory failure.
Lung cancer – Tobacco smoking is not only the leading cause of lung cancer but it is also responsible for nearly 75% of lung cancer related deaths globally. Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke also puts individuals at risk of contracting lung cancer.
Lifetime ailments in children – Infants exposed to toxins from tobacco smoke as a result of maternal smoking or maternal exposure to second-hand smoke regularly experienced reduced growth and function of their lungs. Young children who are exposed to second-hand smoke face the risk of respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.
The World Health Organization estimates that close to 165,000 children globally die annually as a result of lower respiratory infections caused by exposure to second-hand smoke. Those who are lucky enough to live into adulthood will be consistently plagued by these infections and may even run the risk of developing chronic respiratory disease.
Chronic respiratory disease – Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is primarily caused by tobacco smoking.
Air pollution – Tobacco smoke is known to contain over 69 cancer causing chemicals. While smoke may be invisible and odorless, it can still linger in the air for up to five hours, putting those exposed at risk of lung cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and reduced lung function.
What does World No Tobacco Day intend to achieve?
The most effective ways of boosting lung health are through the reduction of tobacco use and secondhand smoke. However, there is a general lack of awareness among large segments of the population about the dangers to lung health arising from tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke.
The World No Tobacco Day campaign will raise awareness on
risks posed by tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke exposure;
awareness on the particular dangers of tobacco smoking to lung health;
the magnitude of death and illness globally from lung diseases caused by tobacco, including chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer;
emerging evidence on the link between tobacco smoking and tuberculosis deaths;
implications of second-hand exposure for lung health of people across age groups;
importance of lung health to achieving overall health and well-being;
feasible actions and measures that key audiences, including the public and governments, can take to reduce the risks to lung health posed by tobacco.
Lung health is not achieved solely through the absence of disease, and tobacco smoke has major implications for the lung health of smokers and non-smokers worldwide.
Parents and other members of the community should also take measures to promote their own health, and that of their children, by protecting them from the harms caused by tobacco.