World no tobacco day is celebrated on 31st May, every year. This initiative was taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987 to draw everyone’s attention to the tobacco epidemic.
The day gives us an opportunity to spread awareness in the general public about the harmful effects of tobacco. Global adult tobacco survey (GATS), India 2016-17, fact sheet states that 42.4% of men, 14.2% of women and 28.6% of all adults amounting to 266.8 million, consume tobacco in one or another form. As per the GLOBOCAN- 2018, 92,011 new cases of mouth cancers and 48,698 new cases of lung cancers are diagnosed every year in our country. Since the tobacco affects every organ in the body, it leads to cancer of other organs as well such as pharynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas and causes several non-cancer diseases. Chronic obstructive lung disease, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, tobacco-related amblyopia leading to blindness are few of the serious illnesses caused by this deadly substance.
This annual campaign has a different theme each year. The focus of this year is “Tobacco and Lung health”. According to WHO,
- Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, leading to more than two-thirds of lung cancer deaths worldwide. Second-hand smoke exposure or passive smoking also increases the risk of lung cancer.
- Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and also exacerbates asthma.
- Babies and children exposed to second-hand smoke as a result of consumption by mother or other family members are at risk of developing asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, and infections.
- It aggravates the ill effects of Tuberculosis and increases the risk of death by respiratory failure.
- Cigarette smoke contains more than 7000 harmful chemicals and causes indoor air pollution.
It is a man-made epidemic and the best way to control it is to create awareness and to discourage its use among people. Today support groups and toll-free helplines are available to help people get rid of this habit. These support groups provide psychological and /or pharmacological support to people who choose to quit tobacco. Our country became a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005. Mandatory 85% pictorial warning labels on tobacco products, banning sale, distribution and consumption of tobacco and related products in various states, ban on smoking at public places, statutory warnings in cinema halls are the few initiatives taken by our government.
Apart from the prevention, early detection of cancer and precancerous lesions play an important role in reducing morbidity and mortality related to cancer. This is achieved by conducting screening camps where apart from health education, people are examined by trained health personnel and suspicious findings are confirmed with further testing.
Cancer if diagnosed early is curable. On this world tobacco day Let us join our hands together to fight the war against cancer.
Let us make every day a world no tobacco day!
The writer, Dr. Shilpi Sharma, is a Consultant Surgical Oncology (Head& Neck) at, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital in Gurugram