It might go without saying that smoking cigarettes is bad for the lungs, though the World Health Organization (WHO), which sponsors World No Tobacco Day on May 31 along with partners, reports that in some countries there is a lack of knowledge about the severe damage cigarettes have on lung health.
Worldwide, tobacco use kills more than 7 million people each year and smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer.
In the United States, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and diseases, which include heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a number of different kinds of cancer, reports the American Cancer Society.
Public awareness about the dangers of cigarette smoking has steadily increased since the 1970s and given rise to an entire industry of tobacco alternatives, such as electronic-cigarettes or e-cigs that vaporize liquid nicotine.
Unfortunately, there’s very little research suggesting that “vaping” is any safer than smoking cigarettes, but research suggests nearly one in 20 adults in the U.S. use one e-cig product or another, which worries health care experts.
Risks of Tobacco Use and the Goal of World No Tobacco Day
The goal of World No Tobacco Day is to raise awareness about the devastating lung health consequences of smoking to not only the smoker, but also those in their immediate environment.
The risks of using tobacco include some of the following:
- Exposure to second-hand smoke at home or in the workplace increases the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers. Children are especially vulnerable
- Children breathing second-hand smoke experience bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma more frequently, as well as suffer from a greater number of lower-respiratory infections
- Tobacco smoke is an indoor air pollutant and should be identified as such
- Growing evidence between smoking and tuberculosis deaths
- Quitting tobacco use decreases the risks of certain types of cancer
- By 10 ten years of being tobacco-free, the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a regular smoker
What Can We Do to Promote Anti-Smoking and No Tobacco Use?
The WHO’s campaign is also a call for governments around the globe to recognize the soaring healthcare costs and loss of productivity associated with tobacco-induced lung cancer and other diseases.
Promoting anti-tobacco campaigns that include educational tools is one way of informing the public about the dangers of smoking, as well as making cigarettes cost prohibitive.
Funding national quit smoking programs, bolstered with toll-free call lines for people seeking information or support, is yet another tool at the disposal of governments and health organizations.
Creating smoke-free living work and public spaces is a key to good lung health. The United States has made good headway in this area, though there are other countries that lack basic clean air in these common places, including on public transportation.
If you’re a smoker, consider the lung health of those exposed to your smoke, as well as what your own life might be like without being tethered to a cigarette addiction.
This year’s World No Tobacco day could be the first nicotine-free day of the rest of your life.
Kicking a nicotine addiction is not easy, but there are resources and support available, such as this free Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hotline, that also offers tips on how to quit smoking cigarettes for good.