Nicotine – the active ingredient in tobacco – is one of the leading causes of morbidity across the world. The WHO estimates that nearly six million people succumb to tobacco-related illnesses in the world. More than six lakhs of these deaths are of those people who were passively exposed to cigarette smoke. 80% of the one billion smokers in the world live in low and middle income countries – including India.
Tobacco – The Deadlier Cause
If you leave out Parkinson’s disease, tobacco is the cause of just about every illness you can think of. Cancers (especially lung cancer), heart attack, stroke and impotence are just few of the conditions that could be attributed to smoking. It is hardly surprising that smoking should be associated with such levels of morbidity, because the cigarette smoke is said to contain – apart from nicotine – about 4000 active chemicals! Some of these chemicals are used as ingredients in toilet cleaners and rocket fuel.
Studies have established that every cigarette smoked reduces the lifespan of the smoker by 11 minutes. Further, smoking cigarettes is so addictive that quitting smoking is more difficult than quitting alcohol or any other substance. This is the reason why tobacco cessation is given prime importance in preventive medicine. Apart from educating people about the ills of smoking, pictorial warnings on cigarette packs and mass media advertisements are undertaken by the Government.
Options for Quitting
For those who are already dependent on smoking, a host of options are available to help them quit the habit. While none of these are foolproof methods of quitting smoking, they do offer some hope to those who want to turn over a new leaf. E-cigarettes, nicotine patches and gums, anti-craving drugs such as bupropion and varenicline are a few of the methods available in India for those trying to quit smoking.
In this context, it is interesting to note the findings of a new study, which looked at the findings of many previously published studies about both the harmful and beneficial effects of nicotine. The authors of the paper published in the Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology in February 2015, concluded that nicotine was the leading cause of several cancers as well as other diseases. They further recommended that nicotine replacement therapy, undertaken to help smokers quit their habit, should be regulated and its use closely monitored by specialists.
The only answer to reduce the harmful effects of nicotine, or indeed any of the other ingredients in cigarette smoke, is to quit smoking completely. There is no other more effective method than this. Encourage your near and dear ones to quit smoking, and make sure that none of the young ones in your house fall prey to this habit – because preventing the habit is better than making someone quit the habit. Smoking in public spaces – even though banned in India – is rampant, and one can see smokers openly flouting the rule.
They should realise that they are not only killing themselves, but also those around them.