Let’s eradicate tobacco!!

Yesterday, Ghana joined the rest of the world to celebrate World No Tobacco Day.

First celebrated on May 31, 1987, the day has since been observed to draw attention to the health risks and deaths due to tobacco consumption.

One would ask why the use of tobacco and its products like cigarette in the first place.

History has it that native South Americans were first found growing and using tobacco for its pleasurable effects, while they also claimed its efficacy in the treatment of various diseases.

Later, tobacco use spread globally.

In fact, in the days when treatments for many diseases were being sought and herbs of all kinds were considered worth trying, tobacco came to feature in a collection of herbals and pharmacopoeias produced throughout Europe by physicians, botanists, ex­plorers, missionaries and even historians.

Thus, tobacco and its products did not come to be used for their own sake but for the importance echoed by the knowledgeable people of those days.

Who won’t smoke a cigarette when the product is said to reduce stress, for example?

But thank God, as the years rolled by, medical scientists saw the need to ascertain the health benefits of tobacco and it is now found to be more harmful than being healthy.

In fact, a study has postulat­ed that the tobacco plant has probably been responsible for more deaths than any other herb.

It is on record that at pres­ent, tobacco smoking is causing over three million deaths a year worldwide, and if current smoking trends continue, the annual mortality will exceed 10 million by 2030.

The good news, however, is that tobacco is said to be un­doubtedly the most important avoidable cause of premature death and disease in the world.

It is, therefore sad to hear that more than 6,700 Gha­naians die every year due to tobacco-related illness.

What is heart-breaking is that about 18 per cent of these lives are lost to exposure to secondhand smoke, which is smoke involuntarily inhaled from tobacco being smoked by others.

We know a lot of education has been going on over the years concerning the need to stop the cultivation of the tobacco plant itself and the need for users of the tobacco leaves and products, yet both the planters and users persist in their acts.

Some of the users have become addicted and so need professional treatment but this can only be possible if they open up for it.

In the case of the cultivators of the plants, they are focus­ing on the income they derive from what has come to be their occupation, so they need to be helped to understand why they should abandon the cultivation of tobacco for alternative and healthy plants or crops.

This is why the theme for this year’s commemoration of World No Tobacco Day, “We need food, not tobacco”, is very relevant.

Tobacco cultivators can easily switch to food cultivation because the soil that supports tobacco growth is equally good, if not better, for food crops.

We hope all stakeholders, including the government, non-governmental and civil society organisations, schools, churches, mosques and even workplace groups like unions and clubs, would help in raising awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and the need to eradicate it.

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