Thursday 31st May was World No Tobacco Day. The theme for this year is Tobacco and heart disease. Tobacco is a leading and very preventable cause of heart disease and stroke.
So, every effort has to be made to make smoking look ‘less cool’ especially to impressionable youngsters. The packs of cigarettes should be made plain with a ban on marketing and advertising of these products. The latter has been done in Nigeria but the marketers of the products have also become very innovative, taking the products to the very place where they are used…the bars, clubs and other ‘cool’ hangouts. Something has to be done about that! Another possible deterrent of smoking is the imposition of a ‘sin’ tax on the product making it that much more expensive to procure. Whatever we do, we have to ensure that we protect the environment and the people who live in it (you and I) from the dangers of smoking.
Below, I reproduce a post I had written on smoking in adolescents to mark this same day, a while back. Given the increasing focus on adolescent mental wellness, this post is super-relevant. Enjoy…
When I was younger, the picture of a cool guy wasn’t complete without a cigarette in his hands. Then, if he had a cigar, men, that was hyper ultra cool! He would usually be seen leaning on a cool car, with lots of other dudes hanging on to his words and pretty girls dying to be given the eye by him. In fact, some television adverts for cigarettes would go so far as to show how with puffs of cigarettes, a regular guy not only becomes super-cool but also becomes a super athlete, star etc. Do they actually possess these powers? Hmmm!
It was World No Tobacco day a few weeks back. It really went by quietly with not much noise; I think I just caught a tiny paragraph in the newspaper where a company exec from one of the tobacco companies talked about how much they were doing in terms of corporate social responsibility. The focus for this year’s celebration was banning tobacco advertising: ‘Ban tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion’. The tobacco companies, to be fair to them, actually note on the packs that smokers are likely to die young. But I’ve always thought the adverts were not really telling us anything. Die from what exactly? People who cross the roads without looking are likely to die young; people who do not use the pedestrian crossings and instead choose to cross the expressway are likely to die young, any person who falls in front of a fast moving train will most certainly die, young or old etc. In fact, my friends delight in telling me whenever I sound sanctimonious that ‘na something go kill person’. These are the adult, almost ‘ossified’ fossils like me
For the younger ones, repercussions that are too far in the future are difficult to comprehend today when they are all hip and cool. The talk of all the consequences is kinda like lots of smoke without fire! And the tobacco companies have also gotten innovative, they take the advert to where the young ones actually hang out. The time of discovering tobacco is about the same time that alcohol is discovered and so the young ‘uns are hanging around bars and night clubs (I thought there were age limits for admission? :O). This is where the tobacco companies go and they have a huge and captive audience.
Tobacco use has a lot of health implications and has been noted as a risk factor in lung diseases, heart diseases and cancers. This may appear to be too far in the future and difficult for our teenagers who are in their prime to contemplate. So, perhaps educating them about more short to medium term consequences may be helpful. Some of these include:
Reduced fitness levels…making them appear old and fuddy-duddy! They can’t even join the cool sports teams
Nasty smelling breath that even tooth paste, breath mints and candy cannot mask
Becoming unattractive to non-smoking peers
Stained teeth and fingers
Wasting money that could be used for clothes, music or other items
Finally, the fact that the teenager loses control and can’t stop smoking once addiction to nicotine appears.
I had a very close relation who smoked…a lot. He also drank…a lot. He eventually died with complications of hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus, liver cirrhosis and lung disease. Granted, there was a whole lot more going on than just the smoking but it’s now a case of which came first, ‘the cart or the horse’. I don’t know but I can surely tell you that smoking didn’t help him any. Tobacco use is a major preventable cause of death world wide. The reasons for tobacco use are many and diverse, but in a nutshell, appears to be a way from which people attempt to escape stress and the pressures of life. So the campaign for eradicating smoking goes beyond the individual and involves the Government which must provide the right socio-economic support for the issues people stress out about. Having said that, we also have a role to play.
For the adult smokers, there has to be a clear desire to quit and so being positive, being around supportive people and avoiding the areas where one usually is encouraged to smoke, are steps in the right direction. Getting other hobbies, switching to oral substitutes like chewing gum, carrots and mints are also helpful. Brushing your teeth often is also a good idea as toothpaste makes cigarette taste really bad…so I hear
Methinks though that the best way to discourage your teenagers from smoking is by setting a good example. They learn much more from what we do than from what we say.
So guys, I say, ‘let’s tar our roads, not our lungs!’
For more information on the link between tobacco/smoking and heart disease/stroke, please click on these links:
Have a great weekend