More than three decades since the world started observing the World No-Tobacco Day in 1987, smoking remains a major health problem, blamed for so many illnesses such as lung cancer.
The number of deaths caused by cancer, hypertension, and respiratory diseases would be higher in the coming years if the current levels of consumption of tobacco products, including betel quid and cigarettes, do not decline.
The harmful effects of tobacco smoking are well documented. It is blamed for the death of seven million people around the world each year, mostly from direct tobacco use and around 890,000 from exposure to second-hand smoke. Smoking and consumption of tobacco products kill more than 60,000 people every year in Myanmar.
Myanmar has lost about 3.3 per cent of its GDP due to consumption of tobacco products.
The Ministry of Health and Sports has warned that if we cannot control smoking and tobacco products consumption, half of the budget of the ministry would have to be spent on providing medical services to patients with preventable diseases caused by smoking and tobacco products consumption.
With a focus on protecting children and young people from exploitation by the tobacco and related industry, the World Health Organization is today launching a new kit for school students aged 13-17 to alert them to tactics used by the tobacco industry to hook them to addictive products.
Even during a global pandemic, the tobacco and nicotine industry persist by pushing products that limit people’s ability to fight coronavirus and recover from the disease. The industry has offered free branded masks and delivery to your door during quarantine and has lobbied for their products to be listed as ‘essential’.
WHO calls on countries to protect children from industry exploitation by putting in place strict tobacco control laws, including regulating products like e-cigarettes that have already begun to hook a new generation of young people.
To protect our children, we need to make our tobacco-free policy realistic by imposing fines on businesses that sell tobacco products to kids and in restricted areas.
Most important, we need to make young people understand how incredibly foolhardy it is to inhale and swallow chemicals whose effects we do not understand and which lead to an addiction many cannot escape.