Tobacco is a deadly product that kills more than 7 million people annually. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 6 million of these deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Around 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is the heaviest.
Today, the world celebrates World No Tobacco Day. The World Health Organization has declared May 31 as the World No Tobacco Day to focus attention on tobacco products. The theme for the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ this yearis ‘Tobacco and Heart Disease’.
Around 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries
There are two types of uses associated with tobacco: Smoked Tobacco and Smokeless Tobacco. Cigarettes come under the category of Smoked Tobacco and betel quid comes under Smokeless Tobacco.
One can’t understate the devastating impact of tobacco in terms of its negative impact on health and other sectors like economy, education and environment.
Diseases and complications caused by smoking
- Smoking causes stroke and coronary heart disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lung Cancer
- Heart Disease
- Reproductive effects in women
- Premature, low birth-weight babies
- Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicken and grow narrower.
- Blockages caused by smoking can also reduce blood flow to your legs and skin.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Chairman Dr. Palitha Abeykoon said that this year the Ministry of Health and the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol requests all tobacco users in Sri Lanka not to use tobacco products today (31) and tobacco retailers not to sell tobacco products (today) to protect their customers.
“This initiative will be supported by Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Sri Lanka Heart Association and Alcohol and Drug information Centre. Expectations are high that the whole country will support this initiative which would further strengthen the march towards a tobacco-free Sri Lanka,” said Abeykoon.
Gravity of smoking
The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. It causes diseases in almost all organs of the human body.
In addition to its health adversaries, tobacco use is also a threat to the development in every country. This threat is carried to every level and across many sectors like the economy, health, education, environment and aids poverty.
Smoking in Sri Lanka
Around one fourth of the adults (25.8%) are current users of any form of tobacco (smoked or smokeless tobacco). Tobacco use is higher among men (45.7%) when compared to women (5.3%). It’s notable that around 20,000 Sri Lankans die annually from tobacco use.
Dr. Abeykoon said that 15% of the total population comprises smokers out of whom 10.2% are daily smokers and 4.8% are those who don’t smoke daily. It is also estimated that 76.5% of the population has never smoked and 8.5% were former smokers.
“We are happy to note that there is a considerable decline in the use of cigarettes during the past 10 years. At the same time, we expect that it would reduce by 10% during the next five years. It’s absolutely difficult to reduce it by 10% but we plan to take some effective steps to discourage smoking and educate smokers on the adverse conditions of smoking,” Abeykoon said.
“1.5 million people are using cigarettes in Sri Lanka. Most of them are addicted smokers. It’s estimated that 0.1% of women are also consuming cigarettes. Out of the total smokers 19.9% smoke daily,” Abeykoon added.
There are different types of fags being used in Sri Lanka such as manufactured cigarettes, hand-rolled cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, cheerots, ciagrillos and shisha.
Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Alcohol use
- Motor vehicle injuries
- Firearm-related incidents
- Illegal drug use
Although the majority (85.2%) of the current male smokers are using manufactured cigarettes, more than one fourth (28%) uses Shisha.
The use of Shisha is more in age group between 45-59 and 60-69 years. Besides, 6.9% was using the hand-rolled cigarettes and 2% was still using pipe tobacco.
Nearly two thirds of the male daily smokers (62.3%) are smoking less than 5 manufactured or hand rolled cigarettes per day.
However, nearly 13.5% are smoking more than 10 manufactured or hand rolled cigarettes a day.
Smokeless tobacco- More than one fourth of the males (26.0%) and nearly 5% of females are currently using smokeless tobacco. This is more prevalent among the older age groups. Nearly 12% of the current users of smokeless tobacco were daily users.
Steps taken in Sri Lanka to discourage smoking
1. Banning advertising related to tobacco
2. Imposing on use of pictorial warnings
3. No sales to minors (age below 18)
4. No promotions allowed
5. Banning smokeless tobacco
6. Taxation (Ongoing)
8. No sale of fags within 100m of schools (Approved by Cabinet)
9. Plain packaging (Approved by Cabinet)
10. Sale of single sticks banned (Awaiting Cabinet approval)
- Intensify awareness programmes (esp among school children)
- Strengthen tobacco cessation programmes
- Accelerate tobacco crop substitution
- Enforce smokeless tobacco legislation
- Adopt a taxation formula
Voice of some smokers
A daily smoker from Waligampitiya, who wished to remain anonymous, told Daily Mirror that he was influenced to use cigarettes by looking at his father who was a heavy smoker.
“ I hated cigarettes. I have seen cigarettes being kept in many places at our home. One day, at the age of 17, I thought of using one just to test what happens after smoking. On that day I felt nothing. However, I again tried it. Now I am addicted to cigarettes. I don’t blame my father because I shouldn’t have used it at the first instance,” he said.
- Protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke by creating completely smoke-free indoor public places, workplaces and public transport.
- Offer help to quit tobacco (cost-covered, population-wide support, including brief advice by health care providers and national toll-free quit lines).
- Warn about the dangers of tobacco by implementing plain/standardized packaging, and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packages, and implementing effective anti-tobacco mass media campaigns that inform the public about the harms tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure.
- Enforce comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
- Raise taxes on tobacco products and make them less affordable.