End tobacco is imperative for health justice

Manjari Peiris, Sri Lanka
(First Published in Asian Tribune, Sri Lanka/Thailand on June 5, 2019)
The Citizen News Service (CNS) hosted a webinar on ‘End Tobacco is an imperative for health justice’ with a panel of experts to celebrate the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) 2019. The panel of experts included, Dr. Kerstin Schotte of the WHO, Professor Rama Kant, President Lucknow College of Surgeons, Professor Surya Kant, Head of Respiratory Medicine Department, King George's Medical University, and noted cardiologist Professor Rishi Sethi.

This WNTD webinar was dedicated to the memory of Yul Francisco Dorado, a fearless tobacco control and human rights leader from Bogota, Colombia, whose timeless legacy continues to guide tobacco control advocates. Yul was the Latin America Director of the Corporate Accountability and part of Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnational (NATT) leadership.

Dr. Kerstein Schotte of the World Health Organization lamented that there is still a lack of knowledge about the dangers of tobacco in the general public. For example, results of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey show that in some low and middle income countries, more than 50% of the respondents were not aware that tobacco causes cardiovascular disease. She further stated that out of the 57 million deaths that occur globally every year, 8 million are attributed to tobacco use, which are completely avoidable premature deaths. Of these 8 million people, 1 million people die just because they breathe in second hand smoke. That is a very high number and we should work on to get it reduced.

Professor Rama Kant pointed out that each of the tobacco related diseases could have been prevented and each untimely tobacco related death could have been averted had people chosen life and not tobacco. Professor Rama Kant insisted that quitting tobacco is doable and is a good economics.“Quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer. Early smoking cessation is most effective way of slowing the progression of COPD and improving asthma symptoms. Family and society has a great role in both-building up the addiction and also in quitting it. Parents and other members of the community should also take measures to promote their own health and that of their children by protecting them from the harms caused by tobacco. The best way to limit harm due to tobacco is to quit now”, he said.

While direct tobacco smoking is responsible for two thirds of lung cancer deaths globally, exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke at home, workplace or outside is responsible for increasing the risk of lung cancer, stated Professor Surya Kant, head of the Respiratory Medicine, Department of King George's Medical University. He added that, “Tobacco is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition where the build-up of pus-filled mucus in the lungs results in a painful cough and breathing difficulties. Infants exposed in utero to tobacco smoke toxins, through maternal smoking or maternal exposure to secondhand smoke, frequently experience reduced lung growth and function."

According to Professor Surya Kant, tobacco smoke is a very dangerous form of indoor air pollution and young children exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk of onset of and exacerbation of asthma, pneumonia, and bronchitis and frequent lower respiratory infections.

Manjari Peiris, Citizen News Service - CNS
June 7, 2019