On 31st May each year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) celebrates “World No Tobacco Day” highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and suggest effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is on “tobacco and lung health.” The campaign aims to increase awareness on the negative impact that tobacco has on people’s lung health, from cancer to chronic respiratory disease, the fundamental role lungs play for the health and well-being of all people. The campaign also serves as a call to action, advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption and engaging stakeholders across multiple sectors in the fight for tobacco control.

What the numbers say!!!

  1. Tobacco is deadly in any form and threatens the lung health of everyone exposed to it. Tobacco kills one person every 4 seconds.
  2. Out of 56.9 million annual deaths from all causes, 8 million deaths are caused by tobacco.
  3. 1 million deaths are caused due to second-hand smoke exposure.

The Danger of Second Hand Smoke

Every year, over 1 million deaths globally are caused by second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is smoke emitted from the burning end of a cigarette or from other smoked tobacco products, usually in combination with the smoke exhaled by the smoker. Tobacco smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are major risk factors for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tuberculosis (TB) and asthma. Before they even learn to walk, children may begin suffering the effects of exposure to tobacco smoke. Infants born to mothers who smoke, or to women who are exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy, are likely to suffer reduced lung growth and function. Chemicals found in tobacco smoke during critical stages of development in the womb have long-lasting, damaging effects on the lungs. Smokers’ children suffer reduced lung function, which continues to affect them in the form of chronic respiratory disorders in adulthood.

Effects of smoking on Health and Lungs

Smoking has many adverse effects on health. It can cause cancer of oral cavity, larynx, lungs, esophagus, cervix, stomach. Coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, deep vein thrombosis among smokers is very common. Reproductive ill effects include spontaneous abortion and premature birth. In the lungs, smoking leads to COPD, bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, and lung cancer.

1. COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that causes episodes of breathlessness, coughing and mucus production. These episodes are seriously disabling; they can last from several days to several months, and sometimes result in death. In 2016, it was estimated that over 251 million people live with COPD. Tobacco smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD, causing swelling and rupturing of the air sacs in the lungs, which reduces the lung’s capacity to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. It also causes the build-up of purulent mucus in the lungs, resulting in a painful cough and agonizing breathing difficulties. One in five smokers will develop COPD in their lifetime, and almost half of COPD deaths are attributable to smoking. Adults who were exposed to second-hand smoke during childhood, and had frequent infections of the lower respiratory tract, as a result, are at risk of developing COPD. People who started smoking in their youth or adolescence are especially susceptible to developing COPD as a result of reduced lung growth and function. Most cases of COPD are preventable by avoidance or early cessation of tobacco smoking. Patients with COPD who stop smoking regain more lung function and suffer fewer long-term effects.

2. LUNG CANCER

Globally, 1.8 million deaths are caused by lung cancer annually. Tobacco smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, causing roughly 1.2 million lung cancer deaths every year. Smokers are up to 22 times more likely to develop lung cancer in their lifetime, compared with non-smokers. Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke at home or in the workplace have a 30% higher risk of developing lung cancer. After 10 years free of tobacco, the risk of lung cancer is reduced to about half that of a smoker.

3. ASTHMA

Asthma is a chronic disease of the air passages to the lungs, which causes inflammation and recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. WHO estimates that 235 million people currently suffer from asthma. Inhaling tobacco smoke is one of the major triggers for asthma to develop and/or worsen. In people living with asthma, tobacco smoking further restricts activity, contributes to work disability and increases the risk of severe asthma requiring emergency care. Around one in nine asthma deaths can be attributed to tobacco smoking. Patients with asthma can control their asthma more effectively if asthma they quit tobacco. School-aged children of smokers are at risk of developing asthma and/or their asthma getting worse. Childhood asthma is irreversible and contributes to missed school-days, disrupted sleep and restricted play.

4. TB

TB is the top infectious killer in the world. In 2017, 1.6 million people lost their lives because of TB, and 10 million people fell ill with the disease. The bacterium that causes TB (M. tuberculosis) enters the body and establishes an infection. However, this infection does not necessarily develop into active disease – a state called latent TB infection. Latent TB may develop into active disease at any time, particularly when the immune system is weakened. About one quarter of the world’s population has latent TB, placing them at risk of developing the active disease. Tobacco smoking more than doubles the risk of transforming TB from a latent state to the active disease

It’s Never Too Late To Quit

Quitting tobacco use has the potential to reverse some, but not all, of the damage done by tobacco smoke to the lungs. Quitting as soon as possible is therefore essential to prevent the onset of chronic lung disease, which is potentially irreversible once it has developed. Lung function improves within just two weeks of quitting tobacco use. Quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung disease is associated with better treatment outcomes and improved quality of life.