World No Tobacco Day is observed every year on 31 May to create awareness among people about the health risks and hazards of tobacco consumption. The day is recognised to highlight the harmful effects of tobacco utilisation and promote effective policies and laws that will cut down on global tobacco use. The day is organised to promote the awareness about the risk related to the consumption of tobacco and its product and its ill effect on the family, society and environment.. It was created to bring awareness to more people about the dangers and health risks of smoking tobacco, and ultimately, to stop use of tobacco around the world.
Tobacco use and its consumption is one of the leading cause of many types of cancer, like lungs, larynx mouth, oesophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukaemia.Tobacco not only affects the health but also impacts the environment badly in many ways.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “This yearly celebration informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations.”
According to the World Health Organization, the theme of World No Tobacco Day 2023 is “We Need Food, Not Tobacco.” The 2023 global campaign aims to raise awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers and encourage them to grow sustainable, nutritious crops. It will also aim to expose the tobacco industry’s efforts to interfere with attempts to substitute tobacco growing with sustainable crops, thereby contributing to the global food crisis, says WHO.
Each year, World No Tobacco Day focuses on a specific theme to emphasize different aspects of tobacco control. The chosen themes aim to encourage governments, organizations, and individuals to take action against tobacco use. These themes can range from highlighting the impacts of tobacco advertising and promotion to promoting smoke-free environments and supporting tobacco cessation efforts.This year, 2023, the World No Tobacco Day Theme is “We need food, not tobacco”, intends to get tobacco producers to adopt sustainable and nutritious crops by providing awareness concerning marketing options and production alternatives. In addition, the theme focuses on exposing the efforts of the tobacco industry’s sabotage initiatives to replace tobacco with sustainable crops, leading to the global food crisis.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of tobacco smoking and its negative consequences on public health. The day aims to create public awareness about the risks of tobacco use, advance initiates for controlling tobacco smoking, and assist smokers in stopping the utilization of smoking. The use of tobacco continues to be a serious global health issue, contributing to millions of deaths annually and placing a heavy financial and social burden on individuals, families, and societies.
Around the world, about 35 lakh hectares of land are used for tobacco farming annually. The annual deforestation caused by tobacco farming is estimated at 2 lakh hectares. Tobacco production has a significantly greater devastating effect on ecosystems because tobacco farmlands are more prone to desertification (loss of biological productivity) in comparison to other agricultural activities such as maize growing and livestock grazing. In addition, growing tobacco requires heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides that might result in the depletion of soil fertility, resulting in reducing the production of other food crops.
Sustainable food production in poor and middle-income nations could be jeopardised if tobacco were grown as a commercial crop. The majority (90%) of the largest tobacco-growing regions are low- and middle-income countries, where four countries are into the category of low-income food-deficit nations. there is an immediate need for legislative action to curb tobacco cultivation and assist farmers in transitioning to the cultivation of other food crops.
Tobacco consumption and smoking affects our health in number of ways, it could be reason for the following fatal diseases: Cancer of digestive system like GERD, Achalasia Cardia (pancreas, stomach, mouth, liver, rectum, colon, and oesophagus), Neurovascular complications and neurological disorders along with other Neuro related disease like stroke, Small Vessel Ischemic Disease of the Brain (SVID) and vascular dementia , Heart disease, Lung diseases, Diabetes , Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Tuberculosis, Certain eye diseases
Globally 1.8 million deaths are caused by lung cancer annually. Tobacco smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, contributing to roughly 1.2 million deaths per year. Quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of lung cancer
The vast majority of the population of the developed countries is aware of the dangers of tobacco and smoking. Over 7 million people are killed across the globe by smoking Tobacco alone. Many of us know it is believed to be the leading cause of throat and lung cancers, and a major risk factor in many other types of cancer. However, what is little known is that smoking tobacco is one of the main cause of heart problems and diseases. The aim of World No Tobacco Day is to highlight this issue.
Tobacco use and second-hand smoke are known to contribute to around 12% of all deaths from heart disease and is the second leading cause of Cardio Vascular Disease, second only to high blood pressure (which smoking can also contribute to). While these numbers are bad for smokers, it’s important to remember that nearly 900,000 people are killed by breathing in second-hand smoke. The World No Tobacco Day also wants to highlight this issue that smokers don’t just affect their health, but that of the people and loved ones around them.
A record 349 million people across 79 countries are facing acute food insecurity, many are in low- and middle-income countries. Over 30 are on the African continent. Many of these countries use large areas of fertile land to grow tobacco rather than healthy food. Tobacco growing countries often face a negative economic impact due to the adverse health, environmental and social impacts of growing tobacco. In many cases, foreign exchange earned from tobacco exports is used to import food. Growing tobacco causes ill health among farmers and farm workers and irreversible environmental loss of precious resources such as water sources, forests, plants and animal species.
As many as 1 in 4 tobacco farmers are affected by green tobacco sickness, nicotine poisoning. The disease is caused by nicotine absorbed through the skin from the handling of tobacco leaves. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, increased perspiration, chills, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weakness, breathlessness and more. Tobacco farmers are exposed daily to tobacco dust and other chemical pesticides. A tobacco farmer who plants, cultivates and harvests tobacco may absorb nicotine equivalent to 50 cigarettes per day. Additionally, tobacco farmers often carry harmful substances home on their bodies, clothes or shoes, leading to secondary harmful exposures for their families, especially children. Tobacco farmers also inhale large amounts of tobacco smoke during the curing process, which increases the risk of chronic lung conditions and other health challenges. Women and children are often the primary tobacco labourers and are therefore more exposed to the health risks of handling green tobacco leaves and heavy chemicals as well as exposure to tobacco smoke during the curing process. Children are particularly vulnerable, given their body weight relative to the proportion of nicotine absorbed through their skin. Pregnant women are also disproportionally affected by the harmful effects of tobacco farming and face a higher risk of miscarriage. People who roll bidis (hand rolled cigarettes), especially women and children, get exposed to tobacco dust, which they inhale while stocking the tobacco at home and rolling-bidis, resulting in respiratory diseases and other health issues. Tobacco growing is resource-intensive and requires heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers, which contribute to soil degradation. These chemicals escape into the aquatic environment, contaminating lakes, rivers and drinking water. Land used for growing tobacco then has a lower capacity for growing other crops, such as food, since tobacco depletes soil fertility.
Tobacco farming accounts for about 5% of total deforestation, further contributing to CO2 emissions and climate change. To make space for tobacco crops, trees must be cut down and land cleared. It takes roughly one tree to make 300 cigarettes. This leads to desertification and hunger as there is limited fertile land to grow food in some of these regions. Tobacco growing contributes to habitat fragmentation, meaning that parts of the habitat are destroyed leaving smaller unconnected areas, which can undermine ecosystems and contribute to loss of biodiversity. It is also associated with land degradation or desertification in the form of soil erosion, reduced soil fertility and productivity, and the disruption of water cycles. Leaching of chemicals into nearby water sources kills fish and affects other humans and animals, including cattle, that access these waters for domestic use and drinking.
Quality land is increasingly being used for tobacco growing in low- and middle-income countries, reducing the amount of land that could be used for crops to nourish people. Choices of alternative crops are sometimes limited due to absence of strong assured markets as compared to the tobacco market, as well as of government support to transition away from tobacco growing. The tobacco plant and the chemicals required to grow it degrade the soil, and intercropping – the practice of growing two or more crops in close proximity – is a challenge as the soil is depleted of essential nutrients for productive farming. Tobacco is a labour-intensive crop that takes up to 9 months to mature, which makes it difficult for smallholder farmers to grow food crops within the same year.
The significance of World No Tobacco Day is to spread knowledge of the negative effects of tobacco use, including its relation to a number of illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular problems, and respiratory issues. It emphasises the necessity of concerted efforts to lessen tobacco usage and advance a world free of tobacco.
(Author is a Nursing Scholar and can be reached at: Bandayaabid@gmail.com)