Dimple Arora reports on No Tobacco Day…
World No Tobacco Day, observed on May 31st each year, is a significant initiative organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness about the risks associated with tobacco consumption and its detrimental effects on individuals, families, society, and the environment.
Tobacco use remains a leading cause of various types of cancer, including lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon, cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia. Shockingly, tobacco consumption is responsible for the deaths of over 10 million people annually.
Not only does tobacco profoundly impact human health, but it also exerts a devastating toll on the environment. The cultivation, production, and consumption of tobacco contribute to deforestation, soil degradation, pollution, and the release of harmful chemicals into the air, water, and soil. Additionally, tobacco farming requires substantial amounts of water, further exacerbating water scarcity issues.
The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2023 is “We need food, not tobacco.” This theme aims to encourage tobacco producers to adopt sustainable and nutritious crops by raising awareness about alternative marketing options and production alternatives. It also sheds light on the tobacco industry’s attempts to replace tobacco with sustainable crops, thereby contributing to the global food crisis. On this day, government authorities, policymakers, and environmental organizations collaborate to develop and implement policies and strategies that support tobacco farmers in transitioning to growing food crops, thereby addressing the food crisis and promoting sustainable agriculture.
The importance of World No Tobacco Day lies in its efforts to combat the adverse effects of tobacco on both public health and the environment. The annual campaigns serve as a platform to raise awareness, advocate for stricter policies and guidelines, and empower individuals to quit tobacco use. By focusing on the connection between tobacco and various diseases, highlighting the environmental impact, and exposing the tobacco industry’s deceptive practices, World No Tobacco Day plays a crucial role in reducing tobacco-related harm.
The history of World No Tobacco Day dates back to 1987 when WHO member states established this observance to draw attention to the devastating effects of tobacco on public health worldwide. In 1988, May 31st was officially designated as World No Tobacco Day. Since then, each year has seen a specific theme to address different aspects of the tobacco issue.
To combat smoking and tobacco consumption’s impact on health, it is crucial to understand the various fatal diseases associated with tobacco use. These include cancer of the digestive system, neurovascular complications, neurological disorders, heart disease, lung diseases, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tuberculosis, and certain eye diseases. These health risks serve as strong motivations for individuals to quit tobacco use and protect their well-being.
Furthermore, the detrimental effects of tobacco extend beyond human health to the environment.
Some key ways in which tobacco affects the environment include:
- Land destruction: Approximately 3.5 million hectares of land are destroyed globally every year to cultivate tobacco. This extensive land use contributes to deforestation and habitat loss for numerous plant and animal species.
- Deforestation and soil degradation: Tobacco cultivation is responsible for the deforestation of 200,000 hectares annually. The clearing of forests disrupts ecosystems and leads to soil degradation, reducing the land’s overall productivity.
- Improper disposal of cigarette butts: Around 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are not properly disposed of each year globally. These discarded butts release toxic chemicals into the environment and contribute to pollution of land, water bodies, and wildlife habitats.
- Toxic waste generation: The tobacco industry generates approximately 8 million kilograms of toxic waste annually. This waste contains harmful substances that can contaminate the air, water, and soil, posing risks to ecosystems and human health.
- Water depletion: Tobacco cultivation requires substantial amounts of water, depleting water resources in many regions. This can exacerbate water scarcity issues and negatively impact communities that rely on water for agriculture, drinking, and other essential needs.
The main goal of World No Tobacco Day is to create awareness among tobacco users about the complete tobacco life cycle, including cultivation, production, distribution, usage, and waste management. By educating individuals about the environmental and health impacts of tobacco, the campaign aims to provide them with compelling reasons to quit tobacco use.
Additionally, World No Tobacco Day focuses on eradicating tobacco-related diseases and deaths by promoting smoking cessation, supporting tobacco control policies, and exposing the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing tactics. The campaign encourages policymakers and governments to strengthen existing policies and develop stricter guidelines to hold tobacco producers accountable for the environmental damage caused by tobacco product waste.
To support individuals in their journey to abstain from smoking, there are several helpful tips and strategies, including:
- Utilizing nicotine replacement therapy: Nicotine patches, gums, or medications can aid in managing nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms during the quitting process.
- Avoiding triggering areas: Identifying and avoiding places or situations that tempt individuals to smoke, such as bars or smoking areas, can help reduce the urge to smoke.
- Chewing sugarless gum or hard candy: Having something to chew or suck on, like sugarless gum or hard candy, can provide an alternative to smoking and help resist tobacco cravings.
- Distracting oneself and moving to a smoke-free zone: Engaging in activities that distract from the urge to smoke and moving to smoke-free environments can help overcome tobacco cravings.
- Engaging in daily exercise: Regular physical exercise not only promotes overall well-being but can also reduce stress and alleviate tobacco cravings.
- Trying relaxation techniques: Exploring relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, yoga, or listening to music can assist in managing stress and reducing the desire to smoke.
World No Tobacco Day serves as a global platform to raise awareness, drive positive change, and protect public health and the environment. By fostering a collective effort to combat tobacco use, this observance strives to create a healthier, tobacco-free world for future generations.