– Health officials reveal far-reaching effects of tobacco
“Wheezing, coughing and hoarse,” is how Dr. Latoya Gooding recalls some patients coming to seek medical attention. They all had in common the same condition. They were all victims of lung cancer.
The doctor who has been involved in Oncology for the past few years remembers quite vividly two patients, in particular, who were heavy cigarette smokers for many years. Cigarette smoking has long been directly linked to the development of lung cancer.
Although the inflicted patients had sought treatment, they have since succumbed to their condition giving credence to the notion that cigarette smoking can lead to lung cancer and lung cancer can cost you your life.
According to the World Health Organisation [WHO], cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.8 million deaths.
The WHO was able to verify that in 2015 alone, the most common cause of cancer deaths was cancer of the lung. It accounted for 1.69 million deaths with Liver cancer [788 000 deaths], colorectal cancer [774 000 deaths], Stomach cancer [754 000 deaths] and Breast cancer [571 000 deaths] trailing behind.
But lung cancer isn’t the only condition linked to cigarette smoking.
In fact according to local representative of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation, Dr. William Adu-Krow, smoking is one causative factor that can affect almost all organs of the body. “It gives you cancer of the mouth, it stains your teeth, it gives you bad breath, it can give you cancer of the esophagus, then it travels to the stomach and causes cancer of the stomach,” the PAHO/WHO Rep disclosed.
He noted that there is undisputable evidence to substantiate that among people who smoke tobacco regularly, similar to those who utilize other spicy foods such as pepper, there is a higher correlated rate of cancer of the stomach.
Tobacco smoking can even result in cancer of the colon, according to Dr. Adu-Krow.
Although smoke does not pass through the pancreas, there is evidence to support that it can lend to the development of cancer of the pancreas which, according to Dr. Adu-Krow, is one of the most difficult cancers to treat.
IMPACT ON YOUTH POPULATION
Currently, the Ministry of Public Health is paying close attention to the destructive nature of tobacco use, which, according to the Guyana Youth Tobacco Survey [GYTS], has already invaded the youth segment of the population.
According to facts produced by WHO, among young people, the short-term health consequences of smoking include respiratory and non respiratory effects, addiction to nicotine, and the associated risk of other drug use.
However, the long-term health consequences of youth smoking, WHO notes, “are reinforced by the fact that most young people who smoke regularly continue to smoke throughout adulthood.”
It has been found that cigarette smokers have a lower level of lung function than those persons who have never smoked. And added to this, smoking reduces the rate of lung growth, according to WHO.
As if this was not bad enough, it has been confirmed that in adults, cigarette smoking causes heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that early signs of these diseases can be found in adolescents who smoke, says WHO, which has also concluded too that “smoking hurts young people’s physical fitness in terms of both performance and endurance—even among young people trained in competitive running.”
“Teens who smoke are three times more likely than non-smokers to use alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine. Smoking is associated with a host of other risky behaviours, such as fighting and engaging in unprotected sex,” according to WHO.
Given the daunting impact of smoking and the fact that the youth population has already been infiltrated, GYTS Consultant, Dr. Morris Edwards, said that there is a dire need to protect young people. The GYTS survey targeted youths between the ages of 13 and 15 and a vast majority of them were current smokers. As such, Dr. Edwards said, “We need to police this targeting of our children. The Bill [the Tobacco Control legislation which was recently passed] gives us the legal authority to do this.”
Added to this, Dr. Edwards emphasised that “we need to implement a comprehensive health promotion strategy and an effective and comprehensive tobacco cessation programme to do two things: to prevent tobacco use, and to help the students who wish to quit to actually quit smoking.” The GYTS Consultant has also amplified the need for school rules to be framed for the prevention and control of tobacco use.
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