World No Tobacco Day

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day.

In ADRA we believe that every human being deserves to live a life of opportunities and wellbeing. This is why we stand firmly against the harms caused by tobacco. In the 20th century, tobacco is estimated to have caused 100 million deaths. Saving the money for cigarettes during a lifetime could allow you to buy a house.

The yearly celebration ‘World No Tobacco Day’ warns the public of the dangers of using tobacco, informs the business practices of tobacco companies, and explores what people around the world can do to claim their right to well-being and healthy living as well as protecting future generations.“

Why people smoke?

Prof. Vahid Mazidi Sharafabadi, from the School of Sociology at Tehran University in Iran, conducted an extensive study entitled ‘Causes of Smoking and its Solutions’. According to this study, some of the reasons why people smoke are as follows:

1. being accustomed to smoking;

2. it becomes a habit;

3. it is recreation and entertainment;

4. it is a fun behaviour;

5. it promotes relaxation;

6. it gives a sense of dignity and pride, etc.

The negative effects

Tobacco use has predominantly negative effects on human health. Tobacco smoke contains more than 70 chemicals that cause cancer. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive psychoactive drug. When tobacco is smoked, nicotine causes physical and psychological dependency. Tobacco use is the single greatest cause of preventable death globally. As many as half the people who use tobacco die from complications of tobacco use. The WHO estimates that each year tobacco causes about 8 million deaths (about 10% of all deaths) with 600,000 of these occurring in non-smokers due to second-hand smoke (passive smoking). In the 20th century, tobacco is estimated to have caused 100 million deaths.

Europe and smoking

Among the WHO regions, Europe has the highest prevalence of tobacco smoking among adults (28%) and some of the highest prevalence of tobacco use by adolescents (12% – less than 16 years). While tobacco use was previously largely a male phenomenon, the gap in prevalence between male and female adults is getting smaller (9%). Compared to the rest of the world, the WHO European region has one of the highest proportions of deaths attributable to tobacco use (passive smoking). WHO has estimated that tobacco use is currently responsible for 16% of all deaths in adults over 30 in the European region, with many of these deaths occurring prematurely.

The three dimensions of damage done by tobacco

“Tobacco causes damages in three dimensions,” explained Dr Giacomo Mangiaracina, Adventist scientist and leading expert on the study of tobacco in Italy, during an interview with the EUDnews. Harm from smoking is multidimensional harm: harm to health and life, harm to the environment, and harm to a nation’s economy.

“We have to keep in mind that smoking is not a vice nor a social behaviour but a pathological addiction,” continued Dr Mangiariacina in a recent video interview, “therefore, a smoker is a tobacco addict.”

Treating smoking is like freeing a person from slavery,” highlighted Dr Mangiariacina. “Tobacco treatment is a liberation! The ones who quit smoking gain dignity, health, and a lot of money. Saving the money for cigarettes during a lifetime could allow you to buy a house.”

Prevention and treatments

“Prevention is very important, but unfortunately several states, who are supposed to take care of it, often do not,” argued Dr Mangiaracina. So, prevention is left to the private sector, to private organisations. This is a handicap because private organisations do not have the budgets that the state might have. Thus, prevention has less impact and that’s a boomerang for the states because the state earns money from the sale of cigarettes but then loses twice as much to treat the tobacco patients.

Quitting smoking is not an act, but a process that takes usually its time. The main treatment today is tobacco counselling, following a smoker step by step. It is not about methods to stop smoking, but about professionals who are trained to help smokers get rid of their addiction. “Therapy alone is not enough, it must be accompanied by counselling,” underlined Dr Mangiaracina. The smoker has to see his therapist on a regular basis. In many countries, there are also distance support centres, via the internet, to assist smokers at a distance – also because of the pandemic. Smokers can also be looked after from home.

Text prepared in cooperation with Andreas Christian Mazza and Inter-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists.