Hiren Pandit: In Bangladesh, more than 1.61 lakh people die every year due to tobacco. What are the health risks and economic losses due to tobacco? The results of a recent study are quite worrying. Studies have shown that tobacco users have a 109 percent higher risk of developing three major types of cancer-lung, larynx and mouth- than non-users. The risk of seven life-threatening diseases, including stroke, heart disease and stroke, is 56 percent higher than the non-smokers.
The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats worldwide, claiming the lives of more than 8 million people worldwide each year. More than 7 million people die as a result of direct tobacco use and about 1.2 million smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke. All types of tobacco are harmful and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco use worldwide.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), 2017, 42.8% of the adult population working in covered workplaces in Bangladesh are victims of secondhand smoke. About 25 million adults are exposed to second-hand smoke while traveling on public transport. Second-hand smoke causes death and increases the risk of serious illness with coronary infections. Therefore, the health protection of this huge population of victims of secondhand smoke is very important.
Tobacco manufacturers must be compelled to comply with specific laws. Restrictions should be imposed on the sale of all types of tobacco products, including electric cigarettes sold in the market
The number of women smokers is also increasing in the country. Five years ago, 24.4 percent of women were addicted to smoking, but now it has risen to 32 percent. In particular, where 1.5 percent of women used to smoke bidis and cigarettes, now it has risen to 2.6 percent. This number is highest in rural areas. In other words, more than 20 million women in the country are addicted to tobacco and smoking, according to various studies.
Women who smoke are at a higher risk of developing cancer than men. Women who smoke are more at risk of colon cancer than men. Women who smoke are more likely than men to have a heart attack. The risk of death of women smokers has also increased in the world including Bangladesh.
Research has shown that women in affluent households often find it fashionable or even glamourous to smoke. They even take other drugs. Middle-class women became less addicted to smoking for fear of social castigation. Women living below the poverty line inadvertently become involved in smoking. Tobacco is still being cultivated in about 1 lakh acres of land in the country.
Although prohibited by law, 95 percent of smokers who smoke in public places do not have to pay any fine. The anti-smoking law has little effect. The government’s measures to curb tobacco cultivation and the spread of tobacco products have not gained much momentum. Even though the advertisement of cigarettes in the media has been stopped, the companies of tobacco products with low price cigarettes are continuing their campaign to increase the smoking rate.
The number of women smoking in open spaces in different divisional and district cities of the country including the capital Dhaka is also increasing at an alarming rate. In addition, many women are smoking both openly and secretly in low-income areas, including slums. Smoking has become a norm among many middle-class, upper-class and marginalised women, at college, leisure centers, universities and upscale restaurants.
Meanwhile, the image of free smoking of women in Bangladesh has come up in the international reports as well as the local companies working on tobacco. Not only that, at the beginning of 2017, a report of Croatia Institute of Public Health ranked Bangladesh as the top country for female smokers. Although the number of female smokers seems to be less, it is surprising that Bangladesh tops the list of female smokers in the world. Croatia is in second place. Bangladesh is at the forefront among 22 countries in the world in terms of the number of female smokers.
If this situation is prolonged, women’s health in the country will be seriously harmed, experts and medical scientists think. Men and women should be made aware of the harmful aspects of smoking. Tobacco manufacturers must be compelled to comply with specific laws. Restrictions should be imposed on the sale of all types of tobacco products, including electric cigarettes sold in the market and in this regard, everyone from the family to the state must create awareness about its harms.
Although there is an anti-smoking law in the country, it has not been properly implemented. There is a lack of surveillance in the import and export of tobacco and intoxicants. Indigenous, rural, floating, factory and brick kiln women in particular lack awareness about the dangers of smoking. Besides, they are not abiding by the specific laws for tobacco, smokeless tobacco (zarda and gul) producers. For this, besides various government and non-government organizations, the people also have to come forward.
Many people know that smoking causes cancer, heart disease and stroke, but research shows that many other smoking-related diseases are harmful to the female body
“Statutory Warning Smoking is harmful to health.” But still, many people smoke. We all know how harmful smoking is to our bodies. But even then, why do people intentionally harm themselves, those who smoke can tell the reason. Although smoking is not a good thing, men have been smoking for ages. But the question is, why do women smoke? What is the reason behind their smoking?
The era has changed so much that even women now smoke in public. But why do women smoke? So far, well-known researchers in many countries have researched this subject. Researchers from the Health Smoking Prevention Center in Canada and the American Cancer Society in the United States have found that many women around the world smoke. 1. Women smoke for relief from family unrest. 2. Boys and girls nowadays smoke together and women think that smoking together improves friendship. 3. Women smoke to stay slim. 4. Women smoke to relax and be worry-free. 5. Women smoke for the pleasure of holding a cigarette in your hand. 6. Women smoke to control their anger and suffering. 7. Many women smoke to increase their self-confidence. 8. Women get a lot of pleasure by smoking so they smoke. 9. Many women say that they like cigarette smoke. 10. Many women think that smoking reduces their appetite so they smoke. 11. Moreover, many women who grow up with various problems in the family from a very young age, especially with their parents, have been smoking since they were very young.
Meanwhile, modern young women now also turn to smokeless battery-powered electronic cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The smoker takes in vaporized liquid nicotine instead of toxic tobacco. It is also known as ‘vaping’. This causes the brain to feel like smoking. However, experts say that nicotine consumption in this method is also harmful to health. It contains the antiseptic formaldehyde, which contains cancer-causing ingredients.
Since many women smoke nowadays, they should know what harm this does to the body. Many people know that smoking causes cancer, heart disease and stroke, but research shows that many other smoking-related diseases are harmful to the female body. 1. Decreased bone density, knee pain, arthritis 2. Premature eye cataract. 3. Dental gum problems 4. Stomach ulcers that can also lead to death. 5. Increased depression. 6. Some studies have found that smoking causes women to have period problems. 7. Due to heavy smoking, women stop having periods before normal menopause age. 8. Women who smoke also have more problems having children and there is a fear of aborting the baby before birth. 9. Women who smoke may have difficulty breathing.
To protect public health, especially to discourage young people from smoking, the existing Tobacco Use (Control) Act, 2005 should be amended and all kinds of advertisements including the display of tobacco products should be prohibited. According to Article 18 (1) of our Constitution, the responsibility for the development and protection of public health lies with the state. In addition, Article 32 of the Constitution protects the right to life of the people. Bangladesh has signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international agreement on tobacco control and has enacted a tobacco control law accordingly. Implementation of FCTC in Goal 3 of the Eighth Five-Year Plan and 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On the other hand, tobacco is also a big burden for the economy. In the 2017-18 financial year, the economic loss due to tobacco use (loss of medical expenses and productivity of other crops) amounted to Tk. 30,560 crore while only earning Tk. 22,810 crore as revenue from the tobacco-related sector.
Realizing the many harms of tobacco, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her determination to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 and called for amending the existing Tobacco Control Act to make it more compatible with the FCTC.
* Hiren Pandit is a columnist and research fellow