By Prof/Dr. Osman Mohamud Dufle
Today, May 31, 2023, the world comes together to observe World No Tobacco Day, a global initiative aimed at raising awareness about the risks associated with tobacco use in its various forms. The theme for this year, “WE NEED FOOD, NOT TOBACCO,” highlights the detrimental impact of tobacco consumption on agriculture, the economy, and society as a whole.
Tobacco use encompasses a wide range of habits, including smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, waterpipes, using smokeless tobacco, and chewing tobacco. Regardless of the form, all of these practices pose significant health risks.
It is alarming to note that approximately 1.3 billion people globally use tobacco today, with more than 80% of them residing in low- and middle-income countries. Cigarette smoking alone accounts for immediate and long-term health consequences, causing around 8 million deaths each year. Of these, more than 7 million deaths are attributed to direct tobacco use, while approximately 1.2 million deaths occur due to secondhand smoke exposure.
Tobacco products contain over 7,000 chemicals, with at least 70 of them identified as cancer-causing agents. Chemicals such as tar, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and ammonia, among others, pose serious health risks. Moreover, nicotine, a highly addictive substance, is a major component of tobacco.
The health risks associated with tobacco use are strongly influenced by the duration and quantity of consumption. Quitting tobacco use at any age can significantly reduce these risks.
It is important to recognize that the impact of tobacco extends beyond the individual who smokes. Secondhand smoke exposure, affecting those in close proximity to smokers or shared spaces, is responsible for about 25-30% of tobacco-related diseases.
The health consequences of tobacco smoking and tobacco use encompass a wide array of conditions. They contribute to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, by 20-30%. Additionally, tobacco is linked to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), various types of cancer (lung, mouth, throat, esophageal, pancreatic, cervical, bladder, kidney, etc.), infertility in both men and women, and complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Furthermore, smoking adversely affects the musculoskeletal system, increasing the risk of fractures, decreasing bone density, and impeding healing. It also has detrimental effects on the skin, leading to premature aging, wrinkles, and a dull complexion.
The negative impact of tobacco use extends beyond individual health. It has significant social and economic implications, including increased healthcare costs, decreased productivity, and the perpetuation of poverty cycles.
To combat the widespread use of tobacco, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended several measures. These include creating smoke-free environments in public spaces, banning tobacco advertising, implementing comprehensive tobacco control programs, and increasing tobacco taxes.
In conclusion, on this World No Tobacco Day, I urge the Somali community and people worldwide to prioritize their health and well-being by quitting tobacco use and raising awareness about the dangers of smoking. Let us adhere to the teachings of Islam, which emphasize the preservation of life and avoiding self-harm. By working together, we can create healthier and tobacco-free communities.