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Smoking is a deliberate way of taking health risks, suffering and losing life

Jun 16, 2015, 12:08 PM

How dangerous is smoking and how much affect smokers in The Gambia?

Smoking is one of the most dangerous habits to pick up for a person and it is even more dangerous for people with asthma or heart problems. Smoking includes products filled with tobacco and is inhaled into the lungs through a cigarette, pipe, cigar or bongs.

Smoking is a major health risk because it can cause heart attacks, long-standing lung diseases, and finally lung cancer and death and even cause birth defects of children born from parents who are smokers. The other forms of cancer caused by smoking are also gum, kidney, breast, throat, bladder, and stomach and bowel cancer.

Unfortunately we do not have reports about the death rate of dying of smoking here in the Gambia but according to the facts of biological and long term harming of smoking and the long term illnesses caused death of many, many Gambian every year too.

Sadly the fact is that the importing of poor quality of different kind of cigarettes in to the Gambian a very large quantity is allowed and sold for far cheaper prices than in the western countries.

This is even more encouraging for very young and younger people to afford baying them and harming their health, starting in young age in their lives. Cigarettes are available for sale in every corner and every corner shops in the country, sold without any control and any restrictions of age, even selling them in single cigarette out of the box for a few affordable dalasi in particular to very young people too.

It is so heart- breaking seen so many of youngmale Gambian onmany public places, in particularwhere the most Hotels are locket, in front of corner shops and often on the beach smoking cigarettes and pretend adolescence.

More than 12 million Americans have died from smoking since the 1964 report, and another 25 million Americans alive today are expected to die of a smoking-related illness, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The death rate in the United States from smoking has reached now almost 500,000 deaths per year and some experts predict that 1/3 of Chinese men will have their lives shortened because of complications from smoking. Gambian smokers are not an exception, suffering and dying from these mentioned health risks every year too.

Who is most likely to become addicted?

Anyone who starts smoking can become addicted to nicotine. Studies show that cigarette smoking is most likely to become a habit during the teen years. The younger a person is when he or she begins to smoke, the more likely he or she is to become addicted to nicotine. Almost 90% of adult smokers first smoked at or before age 19.

The nicotine in cigarette smoke can cause addiction. Nicotine is an addictive drug just like heroin and cocaine:

Nicotine reaches the brain within seconds after taking a puff, but its effects start to wear off within a few minutes. This is what most often leads the smoker to get another cigarette. If the smoker doesn’t smoke again soon, withdrawal symptoms kick in and get worse over time

The typical smoker takes about 10 puffs from each cigarette. A person smoking a pack per day gets about 200 “hits” of nicotine each day.

When taken in small amounts, nicotine creates pleasant feelings that make the smoker want to smoke more. It acts on the chemistry of the brain and central nervous system, affecting the smoker’s mood. Nicotine works very much like other addicting drugs, by flooding the brain’s reward circuits with dopa mine (a chemical messenger). Nicotine also gives you a little bit of an adrenaline rush -- not enough to notice, but enough to speed up your heart and raise your blood pressure.

What does nicotine do?

In large doses nicotine is a poison and can kill by stopping the muscles a person uses to breathe. But smokers usually take in small amounts that the body can quickly break down and get rid of. The first dose of nicotine makes a person to feel awake and alert, while later doses make them feel calm and relaxed.

Nicotine can make new smokers, and regular smokers who get too much of it, feel dizzy or sick to their stomachs. The resting heart rate for young smokers increases 2 to 3 beats per minute. Nicotine also lowers skin temperature and reduces blood flow in the legs and feet. It may play a role in increasing smokers’ risk of heart disease and stroke, but other substances in cigarette smoke likely play a bigger part.

Nicotine is what gets (and keeps) people addicted to tobacco, but other substances in tobacco cause cancer.

Why do people start smoking?

Most people begin smoking as teens. Those with friends and/or parents who smoke are more likely to start smoking than those who don’t. Some teens say that they “just wanted to try it,” or they thought it was “cool” to smoke.

The tobacco industry’s ads, price breaks, and other promotions for its products are a big influence in our society. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to create and market ads that show smoking as exciting, glamorous, and safe. More than one-third of the movies that show cigarettes are youth-rated films. And studies show that young people who see smoking in movies are more likely to start smoking.

TV ads for smoking have been banned for many years, but films that show tobacco brands are much more likely to include smoking scenes as part of their TV trailers. This is also another fact of watching these movies in the Gambia too.

Is smoking common among young people in the Gambia?

I am afraid I must answer this question certainly and surely Yes.Research has found that even smoking as few as 1 to 4 cigarettes a day can lead to serious health outcomes, including an increased risk of heart disease and a greater chance of dying at a younger age

Smoking firsthand is not the only danger. Second-hand smoke has also led to the aforementioned conditions of people who do not smoke but are in the company of those who do smoke.

The dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke have forced many countries, cities and even states worldwide to create public smoking bans. Many bans have made it illegal to smoke in restaurants, bars, casinos and arenas and offices. I am certainly thankful to Gambian Authorities for created the same regulation in the Gambia too.

Smoking is extremely prominent in films and literature. The most famous movie star smoker was Humphrey Bogart and the most famous literature character smoker was Sherlock Holmes.

There are a variety of ways for smokers to quit their bad habit. Tobacco and nicotine are extremely addicting drugs that can be difficult to pull away from. Some ways of quitting smoking are using nicotine replacement therapies which include gum and the patch, hypnosis, quitting ‘cold turkey’ and acupuncture.

What are the Health effects of smoking?

While smoking has long been linked to an array of health problems, recent research shows that the harmful habit is worse than previously known.

The new report found that smoking is conclusively linked to leukaemia, cataracts and pneumonia as well as cancers of the pancreas, cervix and kidneys. Other complications linked to smoking in the report included diabetes complications, hip fractures and reproductive complications.

The toxins from cigarette smoke can go everywhere the blood flows “I’m hoping this new information will help motivate people to quit smoking and convince young people not to start in the first place.”

Despite the damaging effects of tobacco use, quitting smoking has immediate and long-term effects such as improved circulation and a drop in heart rate, the report found. Even quitting late in life can have positive effects: Giving up tobacco at age 65 can reduce a smoker’s risk of dying of related disease by 50 percent.

Is there a safe way to smoke cigarettes?

Smokers have been led to believe that “light” cigarettes are a lower health risk and are a good option to quitting. This is not true. Studies have not found that the risk of lung cancer is any lower in smokers of “light” or low-tar cigarettes.

Hand-rolled cigarettes are thought by some people to be a cheaper and healthier way to smoke, but they are not safer than commercial brands. In fact, life-long smokers of hand-rolled cigarettes have been found to have a higher risk of cancers of the larynx (voice box), oesophagus (swallowing tube), mouth, and preventive though herbal cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they give off tar and carbon monoxide and are dangerous to your health. The bottom line is there’s no such thing as a safe smokescreen (throat) when compared with smokers of machine-made cigarettes.

Some cigarettes are now being sold as “all natural”. They are marketed as having no chemicals or additives and rolled with 100% cotton filters. There is no proof they are healthier or safer than other cigarettes, nor is there good reason to think they would be. Smoke from these cigarettes, like the smoke from all cigarettes, contains many agents that cause cancer (carcinogens) and toxins that come from the tobacco itself, including tar and carbon monoxide.

For further information and advice for now text Dr Azadeh on 002207774469 /3774469, between 4-6 pm working daysand THE FRANCIS DeGAULLE NJIE FOUNDATION (FDNF) on 8903104/3903104.email azadehhassan@yahoo.co.uk

Author: Dr Azadeh Senior Lecturer at the University of The Gambia, Senior Physician and Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Africmed