Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Smoking Gun In Our Mouth's - Smoking in the 21st Century (P1)

Smoking in the 21st Century. (Part 1)

Tobacco smoking is now practiced by hundreds of millions of people around the globe. One can hardly find a country that does not have a substantial fraction of tobacco smokers within its borders. The only nation in the world that currently has a prohibition on smoking is the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Bhutan forbids smoking, but allows visitors to bring tobacco into the country with them - so virtually every country has access to tobacco. However the three leading countries in tobacco use - and predictably tobacco related death - are China, India and Indonesia in sheer numbers. Indonesia alone has well over 50 million adult smokers, the actual statistic is probably many millions higher. This is significantly more than the populations of Australia and New Zealand combined, just in smokers who live in Indonesia.

One can then further imagine just how many people in India and China smoke – the number is literally in the hundreds of millions, there are more smokers in India, China and Indonesia than Russia or the USA have in gross population. This would not be an issue if tobacco use did not carry with it such high rates of mortality, illness and easy availability. These dangers, coupled with the large scale ignorance of tobacco’s risks, and their effective marketing strategies are a recipe for both current and future disasters – of epic proportion.

So, how many people worldwide will die in the next few years from smoking? – Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of us will continue to perish, year after year, time and time again – a mini, annual slaughter, that shows few signs of slowing down - That is how many and how often. There will be over well over a Billion human deaths in the coming century if we do not take this issue seriously on a global scale.

With the modern and unambiguous evidence that smoking carries high mortality rates, there can be little doubt as to whether many of the hundreds of millions of 21st Century peoples’ who smoke will someday die, or have already perished directly as a result of smoking. Two prescient facts stand out here, the first is that our species find's inhaling tobacco for its nicotine payload rather popular and shows no signs of stopping; on the whole. The second more startling fact is that these same people run the gauntlet of serious illness and death as a direct result of their tobacco use.

So why do people keep smoking? I suspect that many people are simply ignorant of the health consequences of adopting smoking as a lifetime pursuit in the first place. Once these people become dependent or addicted it may already be too late, then again, there is cause for optimism in the 21st Century. This is partly due to the decline of smoking in western countries, the rise of education about its harms, strict new policies, taxes, and new less harmful treatment options. However, after someone is dependent or addicted to tobacco the success rate of complete cessation ‘cold turkey’ is sadly not very promising. Tobacco smoking is one of the hardest drugs to stop using statistically. Even with nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum, the rates of successful tobacco cessation are only around 1 in every 10 people. 

What are our species options in regard to this ongoing and perpetual tobacco genocide? What can we do to stop the death and grievances of countless millions? – In part 2 of Tobacco in the 21st Century we will examine how we could lower the harm caused by tobacco. We will discuss replacement therapies, electronic cigarettes and other policies; be they legal, political, educational or cultural. Somehow we need to minimize this truly mind boggling death rate, while also allowing for individual’s freedom.   

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