Much More than Pictorial Warnings Needed to Fight 'Monster'

June 13, 2009

Divvy Kant Upadhyay, Medical Intern, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University, Manipal.
Contributor / Correspondent for Daijiworld since April 2007.

“Mein Zindagi ka saath nibha-ta chala gaya… Har Fikr Ko dhuye mein uda-ta chala gaya…” go the lines of a popular old Hindi film song. You may have read in these columns about Cholesterol – the good, the bad and the ugly. While there is no doubt that oily food, saturated and trans fats can lead to high levels of cholesterol that could prove fatal if not controlled, there is another ‘monster’ that apart from food can result in or aggravate Cardiovascular disease - Smoking.

Repeated research has shown that the chemical toxins in the cigarette smoke that one takes in lead to a lot of damage. While for years the general perception and even statutory warnings on cigarette boxes have cautioned about lung cancer, it may come as a surprise to many that smoking causes more fatalities due to cardiovascular disease. Doctors have seen three times more heart attack and stroke-related deaths in smokers than in non-smokers.

The free radicals and Carbon Monoxide gas that smokers inhale results in toxic damage to the inside of their blood vessels. These toxins add on to the atherosclerotic plaques that block blood vessels by increasing LDL (bad cholesterol) Levels and decreasing HDL (good cholesterol) Levels. This would result in a quicker blocking of blood vessels leading to fatal heart attacks or strokes in the brain. The cocktail of harmful gases inhaled also reduce the capacity of the blood to carry the required amount of oxygen to the cells in the body.

Over the last two decades the number of smokers may have reduced and today smokers may have become the new social outcasts – they are looked down upon at airports, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, colleges (teachers), trains and movie halls. But take one look around and you are bound to find a smoker. In all probability, every third person reading these columns may have been or perhaps is still a smoker.

Ask a smoker and he can give you a hundred excuses for smoking. It’s a love-hate relationship that smokers share with their cigarettes or bidis. For ages, the young have seen their peers or elders smoke. Smoking for many is thus associated with perceptions of maturity, seriousness and concentration.

Millions across the world get hooked onto the habit somewhere between the last few years at school or the first few years at college. Observing young smokers shows that it is an ‘attitude statement’ till a stage reaches when the smoker doesn’t realize when 'habit' replaces casual attitude.

Pictorial sings on cigarette boxes might not be enough if one wishes to catch smokers young and discourage them from the habit. Smoking is unlikely to produce harmful effects drastically. For the youth that is being increasingly branded as ‘impatient’ and ‘brash’, the ‘probability’ of something happening to them 20 years later is not less than a joke. A more aggressive public health policy with a no-negotiation mode with the Pro-cigarette/beedi lobby sounds idealistic, but may well be the need of the hour.

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by Divvy Kant Upadhyay, Manipal
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Comment on this article

  • Charles D''Mello, Pangala

    Sun, Jun 14 2009

    Tobacco is bad for health, it is known fact. I dont understand the reason for advertising the ill effects !!! Is it another way of advertising smoking ??? Stop tobacco once for all and save the lives and also the money spent on medical. The people cultivating tobacco willl cultivate something else if it is banned. But who will substitute the government revenue from tabacco ?????

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