By Dr Anshu Punjabi, Consultant-Pulmonologist & Sleep Medicine Expert, Fortis Hospital, Mulund
India is slowly witnessing a decline in smoking, owing to the pandemic. While this news brings a lot of hope, there is still a whopping 367 million tobacco users in India with7.7% ‘bidi’ smokers. So, a lot more people at still at risk of developing Cancer and other diseases related to smoking.
What’s worrying is that majority of the regular smokers of tobacco, marijuana, and bidi include young adults. Many teenagers and adolescents fall victim to smoking without being fully aware of the repercussions on their health. What starts as a feeling of ecstatic joy, eventually becomes and addiction and a lethal weapon.
Most adult smokers often begin smoking in their teens which is more harmful than those who take up smoking later. Many don’t realise that their lungs are still developing during adolescence, and tobacco only leads to decreased lung growth and function. Additionally, cigarettes have toxic substances like Nicotine and Cyanide that can kill a person slowly. It is often the cumulative impact of smoking over many years that leads to Lung Cancer.
SECOND HAND SMOKING: When a non-smoking individual is around friends and family who smoke, they also indirectly fall prey to passive smoking. In densely populated metro cities, environmental factors like air pollution expose children to smoke and other toxins at a very young age. Inhaling secondhand smoke filled with Nicotine, toxic chemicals, and carcinogens is highly harmful to a person’s health. Secondhand smoking can lead to development of health concerns like Bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Lung Cancer, etc.
PASSIVE SMOKING AND LUNG CANCER: As a matter of fact, the number of Lung Cancer cases among non-smokers is on the rise in India with around 51% of Lung Cancer patients being passive smokers. This primarily because of increase air pollution within the country. Polluted air and smoke cause changes at a molecular level in the lungs, giving rise to such critical conditions. Secondhand or passive smoking, i.e. being around peers and partners who smoke, is another reason for this rising incidence.
ARE E-CIGARETTES BETTER? These devices are pretty popular amongst youngsters for the past ten years. A lot of young adults are under the wrong assumption that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional bidi or a cigarette. In reality, they are equally dangerous. They might not contain tobacco but have ultrafine particles that can be deeply inhaled into the lungs. These electronic objects also contain flavourings and chemicals like Diacetyl which are harmful. Apart from these, one of the main components of an e-cigarette is Nicotine, which is responsible for addiction. The long-term effects and link with Lung Cancer of e-cigarettes are not accurately known yet. However, in the USA, many e-cigarette users have reported acute respiratory diseases and, in extreme cases, death.
HOOKAHS: Hookahs are not safe either. The smoke that comes through it is unfiltered and detrimental to health, even if it feels good with the cooling sensation and different flavours.
OTHER HEALTH HAZARDS: Smoking, in general, be it active or passive, increases the chances of a heart attack, COPD, Stroke and Cancer. The chemicals in the smoke harm blood vessels and the heart leading to a Stroke. For most heart attack cases in young adults, smoking is a dominant factor. Some short-term effects in youngsters also include various respiratory ailments, lousy stamina, higher risk of COVID infection, Kidney and Bladder issues, high blood pressure, amongst others. Therefore, quitting is the most effective way in which you can save your own life and others.