First the numbers.
Globally, tobacco kills more than eight million people every year, according to the World Health Organisation. More than seven out of the eight million deaths are due to direct use of tobacco, while the rest are passive smokers. More than 80 per cent of the 1.1 billion smokers globally live in middle and low income countries. And finally, nearly 12 per cent of the 1.1 billion smokers in the world are from India.
As the world once again observes ‘No Smoking Day’ on March 11, Dr Akashdeep S Arora, Chest Physician at Healthway Hospitals gives a lowdown on the obvious perils which accompany the lethal habit.
“Besides lung cancer, smoking can also lead to other forms of cancers, namely cancers of oral cavity, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bladder, pancreas and leukemia. Smokers’ asthma, heart attacks, hypertension and aortic aneurysms are also closely linked to smoking. In recent years, infertility is being attributed to smoking. Pregnant women who are unable to give up the habit can be prone to miscarriages,” Arora says.
Smoking, the Chest Physician says, continues to be one of the main causes of lung cancer, which is a condition that causes cells to divide in the lungs uncontrollably, that in turn causes the growth of tumours which reduces a person’s ability to breathe.
There’s a reason why smoking of cigarettes, is one of the main reasons behind the malaise.
7000 different chemicals go into the making of a cigarette, out of which 250 are dangerous to health and 70 are known carcinogenic agents. The nicotine, which is responsible for that ‘craving feeling’ among smokers is addictive, while ammonia a carrier for nicotine and acts as an enhancer. Cigarette filters, Dr. Arora says are a myth and play no role in blocking harmful chemicals.
Therefore, the medical professional says, it is imperative that smokers consult doctors at the slightest signs of discomfort, which can include symptoms like coughing and wheezing, commonly associated with smokers.
“Often when symptoms such as coughing and fatigue do occur, people think they are due to other causes. For this reason, early-stage lung cancer (stages I and II) is difficult to detect. In the early stages, when the cancer is restricted to the lungs, sometimes one may experience coughing along with blood. This symptom occurs early in the course of the disease and is helpful for early detection of the cancer. This is a symptom one shouldn’t ignore. A sudden hoarseness of the voice can also be a cause of concern as cancer can often damages the nerves in the voice box. Cancer can also lead to fatigue, weight loss and appetite loss,” Dr. Arora said, adding that at a later stage cancer could spread to other organs.
Giving up on cigarettes, says Dr. Arora, will not only lower risk of cancer, but also comes with other health pluses to which add to the quality of life.
“Within a few minutes to hours, the heart rate and blood pressure start reducing. Within weeks, symptoms like coughing and breathlessness reduces. Within a month, the chances of a heart disease and asthma reduce,” he says.
But the one quality that is essential to take THAT important step to quit smoking is “will power”. As far as getting around the nicotine addiction is concerned, there are more than one ways, which includes Nicotine replacement therapy in the form of Nicotine gums, nicotine patches and drugs to create aversion to nicotine like varenicline and buproprion