By Dumase Gzambo Mapemba.
He is a lung cancer patient under chemotherapy, bedridden in the medical ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital where he is battling for his life, doctors established that he is suffering from the deadly disease because of tobacco smoking. Shockingly, he periodically sneaks out of the hospital to source tobacco cigarettes in order to satisfy his crave for smoking. This is one of the stories you hear from guardians.
Much as the society consider tobacco smokers as unpleasant and irresponsible, it is also important to note that some smokers confess to have the heart and willingness to quit but they are under siege of nicotine addiction.
For starters, nicotine is the main addictive chemical substance found in tobacco. Studies have shown that nicotine dependence is hypothesized to be a central process underlying why people continue to smoke and experience great difficulty when attempting to stop. Nicotine consumption make one to feel energized for a short period of time, as the effects of nicotine wear off one feels tired, stressed and crave for more.
In our country, tobacco is commonly consumed through smoking; cured and finely cut tobacco leaves are combined with other additives, which are then rolled or stuffed into a paper-wrapped cylinder called a cigarette, the cigarette is ignited and inhaled, usually through a cellulose acetate filter, into the mouth and lungs. Other people consume dried tobacco leaves which are ground into very fine particles through sniffing, this method is commonly used by the elderly people. Another shocking method of tobacco consumption is by chewing the leaf.
No matter the consumption method employed, tobacco is very addictive because of its nicotine component. On the other hand, it is also vital to point out that tobacco consumption does not only bring addiction, direct inhalation of tobacco smoke can cause diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, just to mention a few. For your own information, a stick of tobacco cigarette is said to contain more than 4,000 carcinogenic chemical compounds of which 250 are known to be toxic and more that 70 are known to cause various cancers.
Chewing tobacco is known to contain at least 28 cancer-causing carcinogenic chemicals compounds. People chewing tobacco are at an increased risk for certain types of cancer, most notably cancer of the oral cavity including cancers of the; cheek, gums, lips, tongue, and floor and roof of the mouth.
Our country has more than 707,000 people who are struggling with the habit of tobacco smoking today; it is time the human rights activists start to consider this type of addiction as a disability and advocate for ways of helping this population.
Here are a few guidelines that we can adopt as a country and they have proven to be effective in other countries; firstly, we can save the lives of our beloved ones from the death trap by creating a mechanism of treating people who are addicted to tobacco smoking, these people are actually struggling with the disability and it is claiming their health and lives; they long to be pulled out of the decoy. Secondly, whilst adopting the World Health Organization’s guidelines on preventing people from tobacco consumption and initiation, scientifically proven methods of nicotine consumption which are less harmful as compared to combustible cigarettes must be made available to the people with addiction.
Co-written with Chimwemwe Ngoma, a tobacco harm reduction advocate; www.thrmalawi.info
Posted as published in the Malawi News, 20 October, 2018.