Let’s Observe World No Tobacco Day ’16

Let’s Observe World No Tobacco Day ’16

by Dr Alka Bhat-Mangaluru

World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on 31st May. This is an initiative by World Health Organization (WHO) and many other governmental and non-governmental organizations to highlight and create awareness about the widespread abuse of tobacco and tobacco products and health hazards associated with its use. It is also to formulate strategies to reduce its use.


The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing around 6 million people a year. More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Nearly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.

Consumption of tobacco in any form is injurious to health. It kills almost half of its users. Use of tobacco is never beneficial in any way. Tobacco is used in various forms like smoking, Gutka, Sniffing, toothpaste etc., smoking being the commonest form. Use of tobacco is directly or indirectly linked with almost all types of cancer. It also causes many other serious diseases in many organs of the body like in lung, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), heart diseases including heart attack, Stroke ( blood clot in the brain leading to paralysis), acidity and heartburn, and also adverse psycho-social effects.


Tobacco smoke contains around 4000 chemicals of which 250 are definitely known to be harmful and around 50 are cancer causing. One of the components of tobacco is Nicotine which is responsible for causing addiction to tobacco products. The person who smokes is not the only one who gets its ill effects. The people surrounding the smoker are also exposed to the harmful smoke and can get similar health hazards. This is termed as Passive Smoking or second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products.

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious heart and lung diseases, including heart attack and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight babies. Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places. Second-hand smoke causes more than 600,000 premature deaths per year.


Since the inception of World No Tobacco Day in 1987, each year WHO selects a tobacco-related theme. The theme for 2016 is “Get Ready For Plain Packaging”. Plain packaging refers to “measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colors, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style. Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products. Restricts tobacco advertising and promotion especially aimed at youth.Most of the advertisements and promotions are directed to attract the youth towards tobacco products. Studies have shown that most common age to start using tobacco products is during youth which subsequently becomes an addiction, difficult to quit.

In 2008 WHO called for a worldwide ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. That year’s theme was ″Tobacco-free youth″. Smoking is banned in public places by the Govt. of India. Taxes on tobacco products have been raised to discourage youth. In 2015, the theme was “Stop Illicit Trade Of Tobacco”. Counselling and medications are available to people who want to quit smoking but find it difficult to quit.

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, I request people to not use tobacco products and live a healthy life. A special message for the youth would be, ‘Keep away from and not get attracted towards tobacco products, it is not healthy in any form’.


The author, Dr. Alka C Bhat, is an Assistant Professor, Department of Respiratory Medicine, at A. J. Hospital, Mangaluru; and also a Consultant Pulmonologist, at Unity Health Complex-Mangaluru

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