GOOD health allows us to have a job, earn money, care for our families, go on vacations and follow our goals and aspirations. Health complications such as heart disease or cancer throw a wrench into those plans and drastically reduce our quality of life. One of the main habits to worsen our health is smoking and its latest form – vaping. World No Tobacco Day was established in 1988 by the WHO to serve a five-fold purpose: inform people about the dangers of tobacco, learn about tobacco companies’ practices, fight the tobacco epidemic, practice good health and protect future generations. Every year, it is observed on May 31st.

Every day, around 3,500 tobacco-related deaths occur in India. The ‘smoking kills’ disclaimers are all around us and tobacco advertisements have disappeared from TV screens and magazines. Those who are old enough can remember when people could smoke on airplanes, cars had cigarette lighters and most public places had open smoking sections. But anti-tobacco laws have since tightened in India with the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 also known as COPTA. 

What’s so harmful about tobacco products?

Smoking and smoking-related diseases lead to an estimated 1.35 million deaths in India each year. When a person burns the tobacco in a cigarette and inhales the smoke, they inhale around 7,000 thousand chemicals. Some of these chemicals include nicotine, carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic, formaldehyde, benzene and more. If these sound familiar, that is because nicotine is used in insecticide, carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas, arsenic is a poison and, you get the picture. There are other forms of tobacco products that are as dangerous as cigarettes such as chewing tobacco, beedis, hookah, cigars and e-cigarettes or vapes. All of the above products contain carcinogens, which means they can cause cancer.

Here are 5 reasons to quit smoking: 

Smoking decreases life expectancy

Smoking is known to shorten a person’s life by 10 years. Studies by the University of Bristol found that smoking one cigarette can reduce 11 minutes of a person’s life. This is because the body is gradually getting weaker while developing chronic conditions involving the lungs, heart and other major organs. These health complications associated with smoking reduce the quality of life, require advanced medical treatment and cause early death.

Smoking affects the heart

The leading cause of death in India is heart disease. Smoking speeds up the heart rate, narrows blood vessels and places increased pressure on the heart to work harder. Research has indicated that more than half of all people who smoked developed cardiovascular disease and were two times more likely to die of heart failure.  

Smoking causes various cancers

The word most associated with smoking is cancer. Tobacco products are known to cause multiple cancers, such as lung cancer or mouth cancer. Cigarettes, vapes and other tobacco products are all high in cancer-causing agents. Smoking also weakens the body’s immune system, which makes it difficult for the body to fight various cancers. 

Smoking lowers fertility

Fertility, or the ability to reproduce, is negatively impacted by smoking. Smoking restricts blood flow to the reproductive organs, reduces sperm count in men and makes it difficult to conceive a child. In pregnant women, smoking can lead to premature deliveries, low weight in babies and possible miscarriages. 

Second-hand smoking is dangerous 

Smoking causes grave harm to all the people around the smoker, especially children. Smoking or vaping exposes people in the area to nicotine and other dangerous chemicals. Second-hand smoking increases other people’s risk of cancers, heart disease, respiratory diseases and even Type 2 Diabetes. Living in a home with a smoker makes children prone to conditions such as asthma, hearing impairments, weakening of the heart and even death.

Healthier alternatives to smoking 

There are multiple ways to adopt healthier habits that replace the satisfaction that smoking is thought to provide. Some of these lifestyle changes include exercise, spending time outdoors, deep breathing exercises, hobbies, keeping the hands busy and chewing or eating healthy food such as grapes.  

There are 2.7 million people in India with cancer, and a portion of them have developed the disease through tobacco use or second-hand smoke. When Sukkriti Nath was 16 years old, she wrote a book about the dangers of smoking. The young girl was so deeply affected by her late grandfather’s struggle with cancer after a long history of tobacco use, that she decided to do something about it. Once Sukkriti’s book was published, she donated the royalties to the Cuddles Foundation to help children suffering with cancer. If tobacco use has impacted you or someone in your life, as it did for Sukkriti, consider donating to these NGOs that are doing tremendous work to help people fighting cancer: 

Cuddles Foundation

Each year in India, at least 50,000 children are diagnosed with cancer. Cuddles Foundation focuses on the fact that 40% of children with cancer are malnourished at diagnosis. This impacts their survival rate. For children who are receiving cancer treatment in hospitals, the NGO gives them expert care from trained clinical pediatric nutritionists and caregivers, nutritious meals, monthly ration baskets and supplements to ensure that they are strong enough for the medical treatment to be effective. You can help more children receive the nutritional support they need to fight cancer by donating to Cuddles Foundation’s fundraiser on Give. 

Nargis Dutt Foundation

The cost of cancer treatment is unaffordable for many families across India. Because of the high cost of cancer care, including chemotherapy, many people are at risk of not receiving medical attention or even losing their lives. Nargis Dutt Foundation has been taking care of the financial cost of cancer treatments for thousands of families for over 40 years. In addition to paying for the treatment, the NGO helps the families of patients with accommodation and regular meals so they can support their loved ones. To help Nargis Dutt Foundation support more families across India, you can make a charitable donation to their Give fundraiser here. 

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