Tobacco is inextricably linked to poor health – it also contributes to  global poverty, damages the tobacco growing communities and the environment. A powerful hit on all levels.

Poor communities are more likely to smoke more, often due to the stress of being poor, but this in turn leads to a higher risk of premature death and increased health care costs. Due to tobacco addiction, poor families will choose to spend any money that they have on tobacco instead of food and education. This creates a vicious cycle.

In the UK, whilst smoking rates among the general population have declined, they remain higher in the lower socio-economic groups. Smoking is also linked to unemployment and low educational attainment. According to Ash, over half a million people in the UK could be lifted out of poverty if they stopped smoking, meaning fewer children living below the poverty line.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has promoted World No Tobacco Day as an annual awareness day since 1987 on 31st May. The purpose of this day is to drive governments across the world to change their policies to help to stop this tobacco epidemic. The day also acts as an incentive to encourage smokers to quit.

The environmental cost of tobacco

There is a high environmental cost to growing, producing and smoking tobacco: ‘Tobacco not only produces lung cancer in people, but it is a cancer to the lungs of the Earth’ Dr. Armando Peruga who worked on the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, told CNN.

Manufacturing cigarettes causes deforestation – a study by WHO found that around one tree is destroyed for every 300 cigarettes. This is because the drying of the tobacco leaf is achieved using wood fires. The soil is then left without any nutrients. After the cigarettes have been smoked, the cigarette butt is left which is not biodegradable – it is toxic waste.

Not only this, but smoking cigarettes releases pollutants – nicotine, nitrous oxides, carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia.

The human cost of tobacco

Smoking kills more than 7 million people around the world each year.

Smoking tobacco damages the majority of the human body’s organs. It is associated with:

  • Impotence
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes type 2
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease

Apathy – a real danger amongst smokers

World No Tobacco Day repeats information that most of us are already aware of. Yet when you are addicted to smoking, it is easy to overlook the health risks and to not associate your bad habit with the negative impact tobacco has on the environment and global poverty.

Many people live in the moment without thinking about the future until it is too late.

Smoking and mental health

Many smokers take up smoking in the first place as they have mental health problems such as anxiety which is calmed by smoking. Some people take up smoking to relieve the chronic stress of economic hardship (ironically making it worse). These people are then more vulnerable to tobacco addiction.

What is the World No Tobacco Day 2018 theme?

The theme this year is ‘tobacco and heart disease’  to increase awareness in the link between heart disease and smoking to get governments and smokers to take action.

The facts are hard-hitting – heart disease kills more people than any other cause of death and tobacco use (including second-hand smoke) contributes to around 12% of all heart disease deaths.

Cigarettes damage the lining of your arteries which leads to a stroke or angina. Your heart is also forced to work harder due to the carbon monoxide and nicotine in the cigarette smoke and increases your blood pressure – the highest cause of heart disease.  Blood clots are also prevalent amongst smokers.

What types of government initiatives does World No Tobacco Day 2018 try to encourage?

Government policy can help to drive force against tobacco. Some examples are:

  • Free phone lines to help people quit
  • Anti-tobacco media campaigns
  • Smoke-free public places
  • Increasing tax on tobacco products
  • Graphic health warnings on tobacco products
  • Bans on tobacco advertising

The message is clear – quit smoking for a healthier body and a healthier planet

The NHS has been highlighting e-cigarettes as a way of gently phasing out tobacco as they are believed to be 95% less harmful than traditional tobacco.

In fact, the UK is fast becoming the European leader with success rates for quitting smoking at an all time high through the adoption of this harm reduction strategy.

How can I stop smoking or support others who want to quit?

There are a number of ways to  help you to stop smoking or that you can recommend to friends and loved ones who are trying:

  • Write down the reasons to quit and display it around your house or office or as a reminder on your mobile phone.
  • Save the money you would have spent on smoking and donate it to charity
  • Switch to vaping – people who choose to vape have some of the highest quitting success rates
  • Ask your GP about how the NHS can support you to stop smoking
  • Take up exercise as a way to curb cravings and get healthier

If you smoke, World No Tobacco Day will make you stop to think about your bad habit and take positive action. If you don’t smoke, help promote World No Tobacco Day by sharing articles on social media and supporting anyone you know who has made the decision to quit tobacco for good.

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