Tobacco: a World Health Issue

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is about to finalise the negotiations on a global treaty which is aimed at tobacco, the legal killer.

Unlike other potentially lethal drugs, tobacco (or more correctly, the tar, saltpetre and nicotine contained in cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco) is not only legal, but is institutionally accepted. Governments make millions in taxation, thousands of jobs are guaranteed and the smoker, although he can read the health warning on the packet he buys, is left with a false sense of security: if it is sold legally, it cannot be that bad, his subconscious tells him.

The global agreement on tobacco products will curb the advertising, promotion, sales and smuggling of tobacco and its by-products. It is hoped that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will be an important tool in the fight against different forms of cancer (tongue, lips, mouth, throat, lung, trachea, oesophagus, breast, stomach and intestine), heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, and emphysema.

Luis Felipe de Seixas Correa of Brazil, the leader of the Framework Convention’s negotiating team, declared that it is intended to “ensure that we end up with a treaty which is an effective tool for improving public health”.

Between 17th and 28th February, a final text will be drafted by the UNO’s 192 member states and will be submitted to the World Health Assembly in May. After this, it will be a question of putting words into action. At the end of the day, it is up to the smokers to decide to quit.

However, more and more young people are taking up cigarette smoking, many of whom are girls. The act of lighting up a cigarette is an act of independence, a declaration that the individual of the twenty-first century has the freedom to choose his/her leisure activities, even those which potentially bring into question the power of life over death. Playing with fire, the adolescent of today is different from the adolescent of, say, the 1970s, because the public health awareness is that much clearer.

Today’s adolescent, upon lighting the cigarette, is staking a claim to adulthood, saying “I have grown up”. The tragedy is the addictive qualities of the nicotine, which disguise themselves with the act of buying and lighting the cigarette (or cigar, or pipe), are stronger than many people think. An ex-heroin addict interviewed by Pravda.Ru stated that it was easier to give up heroin than nicotine.

Experts involved in programmes to help people stop smoking have backed up this opinion. At the end of the day, everyone agrees that the smoker has to want to give up, otherwise the subconscious will conjure up images of stress, when the smoker needs to pass his inadequacies onto the packet of cigarettes, or the act of lighting a cigar, or pipe. For instance, waiting in a departure lounge at an airport, making a telephone call, having a meeting, going out for a drink in a bar, going for a meal in a restaurant.

All of these are social situations, in which the nervousness of the smoker is dissipated by lighting the tobacco, blowing it out or breathing it in, passing the attention of the on-looker (real or perceived) onto the activity of the fingers.

Once the smoker can decipher the message, coming to terms with the fact that it is not necessary to light a cigarette to have a good meeting, and so on, learning to be happy being a non-smoker and wanting to be a non-smoker, everything falls into place.

Those who can do so get a high from suddenly not consuming nicotine. They taste their food, they enjoy their drinks, they wake up feeling great, they enjoy the act of breathing fresh air, they find they have more energy, curiously, more concentration, are much happier and sleep far more deeply. This is the reality which the UNO wants to make policy.

The hypocrisy with which the tobacco companies sell their wares and warn about their dangers will hopefully be a thing of the past.


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Author`s name Editorial Team