Over 1.1 billion people in the world are regular smokers. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals including lethal chemicals such as ammonia, cadmium, carbon monoxide, cyanide, methanol, methane, paint, and tar. Over 50 of these chemicals are known carcinogens and 250 others are harmful to the human body. Nearly 80% of the smokers come from middle and low income countries.
Every 6.5 seconds at least one person in the world dies of smoking related ailments. Of the estimated 6 million people killed in 2011 by tobacco, 600,000 (75% of whom were women and children) were passive smokers. It is anticipated that the number of deaths due to use of tobacco is likely to go up to 10 million by 2020. A third of all the cancers are caused by tobacco and use of tobacco products.
A Brief History
The origin of tobacco can be traced back to the native people of the Americas who cultivated it and used it for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. It is only after explorer Rodrigo de Jerez brought back tobacco to Spain that it started to be cultivated in Spain in 1504. A relation between the use of tobacco and ailments such as cancer seemed to be noticed as early as the 17th century and yes tobacco became a cash crop through the 17th and 18th centuries in the American colonies. Till the mid 1800s, tobacco was used extensively and thought of to have medicinal properties.
In 1929 evidences of lung cancer caused by tobacco smoking were first published by a German scientist. In 1950 the Journal of the American Medical Association also published a study that associated lung cancers with smoking. Despite the denial of tobacco companies warning labels and advertising restrictions came into place by the 1970s. In 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified tobacco as a Class-A carcinogen. In 1999, Philip Morris Tobacco Company acknowledged that "there is no safe cigarette".
A Look At The US
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 45.3 million people (19.3% adults) in the US are regular cigarette smokers. About 21.5% men and 17.3% women smoke. In the US, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths. With over 88 million non-smokers in the US exposed to cigarette smoke, tobacco is the cause of one in five deaths and kills over 20 times as many people as murder. Each year about 443,000 people die due to smoking or due to exposure to tobacco smoke and about 8.6 million live with debilitating illness due to its use.
An average American smoker, who smokes a pack a day for 10 years, is likely to have spent $15,768 on cigarettes. The total expenditure incurred by a smoker including increased insurance, healthcare costs, lower possession value, and loss of investment income adds up to about $9000 each year, researchers believe.
In the US, 27 of the states have imposed a statewide ban on smoking in all enclosed public places. These are - Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. Some states do, however, have a few exceptions such as tobacconists, cigar bars, private clubs, and casinos. Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have imposed bans on smoking in most public places except adult venues including bars with liquor licenses. Alabama, Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming do not have a statewide ban on smoking.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention Act handing the Food and Drug Administration authority to monitor the ingredients and to regulate the advertising of tobacco products.
Across The World
China accounts for about 40% of the global tobacco market. With over 730,000 deaths from smoking and an additional 100,000 deaths from passive smoking, tobacco is one of the leading avoidable causes of death in the PCR. On May 1, 2011, a nation-wide smoking ban in enclosed public places was imposed.
In India, smoking is the cause of over 1 million deaths each year – 20% of all the male deaths and 5% of all the female deaths in the country. Despite a legally enforced ban on smoking in public places, estimates say that between 70 & 80 million women in the country smoke and between 150 & 160 million men in the country use tobacco in one form or other.
Since 2007, Russian law banned smoking in public places and allows smoking only in designated areas. In 2010 over 39% of Russians were found to be regular smokers and the tobacco related death toll was estimated to be about 400,000 – the third leading cause of premature death in the country.
Reports from 2010 suggest that in Australia over 13.8% men and 9.3 % women (above the age of 16) smoke daily. In 2006-2007 over 42,356 Australians were hospitalized with smoking related ailments. Daily smoking rates seem to be declining, though, with a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces having been adopted by most states.
By 2010, reports suggest that about 18% Canadians were regular smokers, a decline from 25% in 2000. Health Canada reports suggest that over 45,000 Canadians die each year of ailments related to tobacco smoke. Smoking is banned in all enclosed public and workplaces and in cars with children (only in British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.
Smoking is banned in all public places in the UK. As of 2010, about 21% of the population in UK comprised regular smokers. Tobacco is believed to have caused 60,000 cancers that year and over. Smoking is the cause of over 100,000 deaths in the UK each year.
Only about 11% of the world’s population is protected by national smoke-free laws.
The Tobacco Industry
According to the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation, in the year 2010, the profits of the six leading tobacco companies of the world equaled the profits of Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s.
Despite the high death and disease rates, the tobacco industry is a thriving industry. It is estimated that more than 43 trillion cigarettes have been smoked in the last decade alone. The top 10 tobacco producing countries of the world in 2009 were China, Brazil, India, USA, Malawi, Indonesia, Argentina, Italy, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe.
Though tobacco is consumed in many forms, cigarette consumption is highest in China (2163 billion), Japan (357 billion), USA (331 billion), Indonesia (259 billion), and Russia (239 billion). The top 5 tobacco companies of the world control 85% of the global production and over 32% of the global market is controlled by one company – China National Tobacco. Philip Morris International (PMI), the world’s largest tobacco company reported a revenue of $27 billion and profits worth $7.3 billion in 2010. Other companies that make it to the top 5 in the US are Reynolds American, Lorillard, British American Tobacco, and Altria. Marlboro, Winston, L & M, Camel, Parliament, Pall Mall, Dunhill, Red & White, Newport & Hilton are among the most popular cigarette brands in the world.
Catch ‘Em Young
Studies reveal that most regular smokers take up smoking as teenagers and quite often in high school. Over 66% of regular smokers start by the age of 18. Peer pressure encourages these children to suppress the early discomforts of smoking such as nausea. Each year over 340,000 children try cigarettes for the first time. In countries such as Indonesia about 2% of the children start to smoke by the age of 4. In the US, over a 1,000 children under the age of 18 start smoking each day.
Even when children do not smoke, cigarettes, and nicotine cause a lot of harm to the young ones. It is estimated that over 40% of children in the world have at least one smoking parent and over 50% are exposed regularly to tobacco smoke polluted air making them regular passive smokers. By 2004, over 31% of those who died due to passive smoking the world over were children. In the England and Wales, over 17,000 children under five years of age are hospitalized each year due to ailments caused by their parent’s smoking. In a number of countries children are regularly employed in the tobacco industry leaving them vulnerable to the Green Tobacco Sickness.
Cost To Society
The World Health Organization’s Economics of Tobacco Toolkit says that anywhere between 6% and 15% of the national healthcare costs of developed countries are spent towards the healthcare of smokers. According to the CDC, smoking costs the US $96 billion by way of direct healthcare and $97 billion as loss of productivity. In Russia, the loss of productivity due to tobacco-related deaths is estimated to be about $24.7 billion – 3% of the country’s GDP. Russians spend $2.9 billion on cigarettes each year. In Canada, teenagers alone spend over $ 330 million on cigarettes. The costs of smoking have risen by over 300% in China in the past 10 years. 2010 healthcare costs towards smokers were pegged at $20.8 billion (a loss of $9.8 billion over the profits of the tobacco industry) and loss of productivity at $22.7 billion. These figures are believed to have risen by 2012. In the UK a person who quits smoking is likely to save about GBP 2372 (approx. $3772) annually. Indian researchers believe that smoking costs an average Indian smoker about INR 75,690 (approx. $13,55) annually. In a country with about 220 million smokers, smoking can be rightly said to be crippling society. The losses to the economy and individual far outweigh the profits.
Quitting cigarettes is undeniably tough. Mark Twain said, “To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times.” The withdrawal symptoms include lethargy, brain-fog, mood swings, weight gain, disturbance in sleep patterns and constipation. These symptoms start to disappear even as early as 4 days. Perhaps reminding yourself of the benefits of quitting will help –
Within 24 Hours of Quitting
Your blood pressure and pulse rate decrease, blood oxygen levels are back to normal
Damages caused by carbon monoxide start to reverse
You are already less prone to a heart attack
Your blood nicotine levels are significantly reduced
Within 3 Days of Quitting
You rediscover your sense of taste and smell
Your breathing becomes easier as lungs start to heal
Your nerve endings start to regrow
Your blood is 100% nicotine free
Within a Week of Quitting
Your dental damage starts to repair
Breathing becomes much easier
You climb stairs and walk with ease
Between 2 Weeks and 3 Months of Quitting
Your circulation improves significantly
Your lungs are now less prone to infection
Smoker’s cough starts to disappear
You start to feel more energetic
Within 10 Months – 1 Year of Quitting
Your lung function improves significantly
Regular cough, congestion, and fatigue disappear
Your energy levels increase greatly
Your risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack is 50% less than a regular smoker
The body is at a much lesser risk of developing cancer
Within 5 – 10 Years of Quitting
Your risk of having a stroke is to that of a non-smoker
Your risks of developing lung cancer is significantly reduced
Within 15 Years of Quitting
Your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker
10 Tips To Help You Quit Smoking
Commit – Commit yourself entirely. Half-hearted promises to friends and family rarely work. Write down the reason you want to quit and pin it somewhere you will see it everyday.
Support – Meet a doctor, read up on the possible reactions you will start to encounter immediately, and learn how to counter them.
Reward – Reward yourself every time you reach a milestone. A one week reward could be an opulent dinner with friends while a one year reward could be the latest smartphone. With the expense you save you will now be able to afford it.
Replace – Pick up one exercise to replace smoking. Besides providing you a positive attitude this should help counter any weight gain.
Distract – Every time you feel like reaching out for a cigarette distract yourself with some gum or chocolates even a lemonade.
Relate – Find online or offline support groups – people you can talk to and discuss your symptoms. Friends and family can be exceptionally understanding and supportive.
Plan – Set up a No Smoking rule in your personal spaces such as your home and car to avoid temptation.
Ideate – Imagine an observer or a guardian angel that stops you whenever you reach out for a cigarette. Know that they have your best interests in mind.
Avoid – Avoid triggers such as alcohol for the first week. Avoid environments such as smokers’ enclosures till you are confident of not relapsing.
Celebrate – Celebrate your new-found healthiness; you will smell better, taste better, sleep better. Brag a bit and have fun.
Across the world tobacco advertising and the advertisement of cigarettes face severe bans. Advertisements through media, particularly in sporting events and by way of sponsorship are completely restricted in many countries. The marketing of cigarettes is among the most controlled form of marketing, worldwide.
Most countries have made it mandatory for graphic warnings to be issued on cigarette cartons. Canada was the first country which made it mandatory for full-color graphic images taking up to 50% of the display face of cigarette packages. In 2011, the Parliament approved of the warning images to take up 75% of the display face. These displays are in both English and French, the country’s two official languages. In August 2012, a US federal appeals court struck down the requirement of a large graphic warning on cigarette packs on the grounds that the FDA did not substantiate the requirement with adequate evidence.
The issue of cigarette packaging has been a much debated one. According to a global study, 87% of children who smoke rated plain packaging as “Uncool” and did not want to be seen with plain packs of cigarettes. In August 2012, Australia’s highest court upheld a law asking for all brand logos and colors to be removed from cigarette packages. Very high taxes on tobacco and tobacco products are imposed in most countries to discourage smokers.