Bad habits of smoking and betel-chewing in Myanmar

  • By Arakan Sein

I am disappointed when I see Myanmar people, young and old alike, are seen smoking or chewing a quid of betel. It compels me to write this article.

History of smoking
Smoking has been practiced in one form or another since ancient times; the history of smoking dates back to as early as 5000 BC. With the arrival of Europeans in 16th century, consumption, cultivation and trading quickly spread. The modernization of farming equipment and manufacturing increased the availability of cigarettes following the reconstruction era in the United States. Mass production quickly expanded the scope of consumption, which grew until the scientific controversies of 1960s and condemnation in 1980s.
More widespread cigarette usage as well as increased life expectancy during 1920s made adverse health effects more noticeable. In 1929, Fritz Lickint of Dresden, Germany published formal statistical evidence of lung cancer-tobacco link, which subsequently strong anti-smoking movement in Nazi Germany. The subject remained largely taboo until 1954 with British Doctors Study, and in 1964 the United State Surgeon General’s report. Tobacco became stigmatised , which led the largest civil settlement in US history.

Diseases caused by smoking
Lungs can be very badly affected by smoking; coughs, colds, wheezing and asthma are just the start. It can cause fatal diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer. Smoking causes 83% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Smoking shortens the life of males by about 12 years and that of a female by about 11 years. Every year, more than 480,000 people die in the US due to tobacco-related diseases. It is around 1 in 5 of all deaths in the US annually. It is estimated that 1 in 2 smokers die from a smoking-related disease. Smoking causes more deaths in the US each year than the following combined: alcohol use, firearm-related incidents, illegal drug use and motor vehicle incidents. Some outstanding views on smoking are mentioned below:
The best way to stop smoking is just to stop? No ifs, ands or buts. To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did, I ought to know because I’ve done it a thousand times.
Smoking is hateful to the nose, harmful to brain, and dangerous to the lungs. A cigarette is a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?: Oscar Wilde. If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go: Mark Twain

The history of betel nut chewing
Betel nut chewing originated in Southeast Asia where the tropical climate is conducive to growing areca nut trees and betel vines. Since prehistoric times, it has been embedded in the traditions of Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Although it is considered by the people in all these countries to be something of great value to their culture, some Westerners find this practice strange, unhygienic and ugly. There three main ingredients in a quid of betel: areca nut, betel leaf and slaked lime. The World Health Organization has classified betel nut as carcinogen and initiated an action plan to reduce its use. Regular chewing of the betel nut has been linked to cancer of the mouth and esophagus, oral submucous fibrosis and tooth decay.
In Myanmar, these little shops are dotted all over the country, and they are often seen on the corners of streets in towns and cities. In conclusion, what sorts of action should be taken against the consumers or the shopkeepers? It would never be easy to eliminate the habit of deeply-rooted tradition in our society. But we should not give up to fight against smoking or betel-chewing even if they have a long-lasting tradition in order to have the benefits of the next generations.

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