His sleep was unusual that day, till noon when he was found on the floor unable to talk or move. He had had a stroke on his left side early that morning. The family saw it through referrals, horrible and dusty roads to help him out of this state. Lab results had little to say. Then came the diagnosis; high blood pressure, high blood sugar level, pneumonia, subarachnoid hemorrhage which kept the health care providers working nonstop. Could his health be restored? Could the prognosis be promising? Yes. But his case was different. He had picked up a habit common to those of his profession in his thirties, which had greatly hampered his health for several years. We lost him to a brown and white stick, 84mm; the most common tobacco product in my country- cigarettes.
Tobacco products are made entirely or partly of leaf tobacco as raw material, which are intended to be smoked, sucked, chewed, or snuffed. All contain the highly psychoactive ingredient, nicotine. Tobacco products could be smokeless such as chewing tobacco, and snuff, or smoked like cigar, cigarette, bidis, hookahs, kreteks, and pipes, some of which are flavored with mint, chocolate, oranges etc. The most commonly consumed are cigarettes.
The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention describes tobacco use as the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries and an important cause of premature death worldwide. This plant has over 4800 chemicals including nicotine, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, Lead, Arsenic, Ammonia, Radioactive elements such as Uranium, Benzene, Carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons of which about 64 are known to cause cancers. Yet, statistics on tobacco use are still as high as 3200 persons under 18years smoking their first cigar a day, 2100 youths and young adults becoming daily smokers, and one of five adults and teenagers who smoke.
Nicotine in tobacco products has been credited for its action in making one feel less hungry by occluding taste buds thereby reducing appetite and for speeding up metabolism. In higher quantities, nicotine is a very efficient poison while in lower doses, it acts as a stimulant. Small amounts of nicotine are found in tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines (egg plants), cauliflower, teas, green pepper and capsicums. The amount of nicotine in these plants decrease as they mature and ripen, leaving just about 7.1ng (tomatoes), 4.3ng (potato) which is beneficial for human health as compared to 8-20mg of nicotine per cigarette. With the high consumption of tobacco, humans are prone to devastating health risks which appear to be minor at that time, but of great consequence later in life.
Tobacco affects all systems of the human body. The highest cause of cancers (nine out of ten) results from smoking. These include cancers of the mouth, throat, nasal cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, as well as acute myeloid leukemia (a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells where abnormal white blood cells grow rapidly and interfere with normal blood cells). Also, smokers with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than non smokers. In addition, eight out of ten obstructive pulmonary diseases (OPD’s) result from smoking and OPD’s haven’t got a cure. The risk of acquiring TB is increased in smokers.
Diabetes, which is a rising health concern, is 30-40% more likely to develop in smokers than non smokers. Moreover, fertility is greatly reduced in both males and females who smoke. In the male, smoke alters blood flow to the penis which is necessary for an erection, causing erectile dysfunction and sometimes impotence. Whereas women who smoke are more likely to have difficulty conceiving, may not respond well to treatment for infertility, experience earlier menopause, increase the rate of ectopic pregnancy and have an increased risk of cervical and vulval cancer.
The effects of tobacco do not only result from the smoked tobacco. Smokeless tobacco products are also of great hazards. It is strongly associated with leukoplakia, a precancerous lesion of the soft tissue in the mouth that consists of a white patch or plaque, which cannot be scraped off as well as other cancers. Also recession of the gums, gum disease, and tooth decay result from it.
Despite the problems associated with tobacco, some women consume it during pregnancy, live with smokers or in areas with high level of smoking. This greatly hampers their health and that of their baby(s), complicating their pregnancy. This could result in increased risk of preeclampsia (a condition characterized by high blood pressure, fluid retention, swelling, and proteinurea), premature birth, and miscarriages in the woman. Babies of smokers often have birth defects (heart, if mother smoked within the first trimester), low birth weight as a result of preterm births, stillbirths occurring during early development. After birth, the babies tend to suffer from respiratory issues (coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath), respiratory infections (bronchitis, pneumonia), more frequent and severe asthma attacks, ear infections, and worse of all, sudden infant death syndrome. Slow foetal and placental development also has a negative impact on the development of the child. Other complications which threaten both the health of the mother and baby include placenta previa and abruption, which are life threatening complications. There is also evidence of developing conduct disorders in children of women who smoked while pregnant.
Tobacco use is a threat to all aspects of development. Firstly, it is highly associated with addiction (characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use even at the risk of negative health consequences), which makes withdrawal very difficult as numerous withdrawal symptoms appear (irritability, sleep disturbances, craving, cognition and attentional deficits, and increased appetite). Also, tobacco use is expensive both in purchasing the product and funding the treatment of health conditions associated with its use. With these, tobacco is not worth the expenses. Give your society a reason to live by staying away from tobacco.