Did you know that one person dies every 6 seconds because of tobacco consumption? As shocking as it may sound, estimates reveal that tobacco, which is one of the main causes of cancer, kills around 1 million people in India, every year - this is more than number of deaths due to accidents, homicides, suicide, tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria put together. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), use of tobacco accounts for about 30% of all cancers in men and women in India. Tobacco is a cancer agent that’s extremely dangerous in any form – smoking, snuffing or chewing - and can cause many types of cancers, including:
- Nasopharynx (upper throat)
- Pharynx (throat)
- Oesophagus (swallowing tube),
- Larynx (voice box)
- Nasal cavity
- paranasal sinuses
- Colon and rectum
- Myeloid leukaemia
People who use smokeless tobacco (snuff or chewing tobacco)are also at increased risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas.
How does tobacco cause cancer?
Tobacco contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known carcinogens like Nicotine, Lead, Arsenic, Ammonia, Benzene, Cadmium, Tar and Hydrogen Cyanide. Smoking tobacco releases carbon monoxide, which blends with the haemoglobin in the blood much faster than oxygen does. This lowers the oxygen circulation in the body and damages cell, which across time becomes cancerous.
Apart from oral and respiratory cancers, smoking causes many other malignancies and also block the body’s ability to fight the cancer cells / disease by weakening the immunity system. The toxic substances in the tobacco smoke can also damage a cell’s DNA, which in turn alters its normal growth and functioning. When the DNA is damaged, cells literally go crazy and begin to grow out of control, forming an abnormal growth.
What other health complications does cigarette smoking cause?
Tobacco , other than oral and lung cancer, can cause various other health complications like:
- Weakened immunity system
- Respiratory diseases
- Heart diseases
- Aortic Aneurysm
- Damaged blood vessels
- Decreased blood flow and blood thickening
- Lowering of Oxygen levels in the blood
- Hearing loss
- Weak bones
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Premature ageing
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low estrogen levels
- Bladder cancer
So what can you do to prevent tobacco-related cancers?
The answer is simple – say “NO” to tobacco. It’s perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself. Quitting smoking will not be an easy task as overcoming nicotine addiction will require tremendous willpower and mental strength, but yes, there’s nothing you can’t do if you set your heart to it.
Here are some easy, practical ways to avoid smoking:
- Learn to say a firm “NO” whenever situations warrant and never, ever give into to peer pressure.
- Keep away all things that remind you of cigarettes.
- When you miss smoking, think about the healthy life you’ll gain after you’ve quit smoking.
- When you feel like smoking, take a deep breath. Hold for 10 seconds and breathe out slowly.
- Change activities that were once connected to smoking – read, play games, have a warm beverage (like green tea) or go for a walk.
- Go for get-togethers to non-smoking restaurants.
- Use nicotine patches/ gums that help stop smoking.
- Never switch over to ‘substitutes’ like e-cigarettes.
- Eat healthy, exercise well and sleep peacefully.
The next time you light a cigarette, think for a second - is it really worth?