The Brown Poison - Tobacco

News & Reports

By Sreenandana S Nair, Class 10, Lecole Chempaka Silver Rocks, Sreekaryam, Trivandrum, Kerala

When my mother was barely eight, she realized her father’s life was at stake. Being an ex-air force officer and bank clerk at the time, my granddad would go through packs of Gold Flakes each day. When it was clear that he wouldn’t budge to my grandmother’s cries and pleads, my pig-tailed mother decided to step in. Having the same stubbornness as her opponent, she would throw tantrums, fight back, and even fall on his knees, begging him to stop. After weeks of mere hard work, her innocent tears shifted to happy smiles; my grandad had decided to quit tobacco for good. That little girl was not an experienced counselor nor did she have any scientific knowledge in the field, she had heard and seen what it could do to a person, what that destructible thing could do to a man. A soul had saved another. Smoking or consuming tobacco can have various effects on your physical stature. From cancer to stroke to diabetes to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tobacco infests in you a need, a need to want more, a need that can ultimately kill you. Tobacco not only wrecks one’s body, but it also weakens their mind. Unlike the common belief that this addictive leaf can take one off of stress and anxiety, the truth is that it only lasts for a temporary period of time. While the majority of the smoking percentile continue to do this as a part of ‘self-medication’, research shows that smoking can increase anxiety and tension levels on a permanent scale.

Smoking also has complex relations with depression and schizophrenia. Using tobacco and smoking can affect one’s personal and social life as well. People who are in close or direct contact with them are exposed to secondhand smoke. This means that their partners, children, parents, friends, and anyone else who is around them have an increased risk for cancer and other heart diseases. Every cigarette a man or woman consumes is a threat to their well-being, as well as others’. A rolled thin paper and a magic leaf devoured to take one’s mind off the hustle and bustle of daily life, tobacco can influence generations to come and must be prevented before it’s too late. Being home to the world's largest population of adolescents, India will see a surge in 2050; a wave we’ve never seen before. Raising awareness after adolescents get involved in tobacco malpractices will reach us nowhere. What we can do is to engage students in these awareness sessions, videos, and competitions like painting, poster making, essay writing, etc from a primary school level. When shown the harmful effects of tobacco and what it can do to you, it instills an image in the child, which might later prevent him/her from doing the same. These elementary-level practices can also give a child insight into how to deal with peer pressure. A child must readily be able to shout out that May 31st is the "No Tobacco day”. We give World Environment Day its rightful importance, then why not this? A

day that encourages you to start off with a clean slate. A day that lets you forget your mistakes and encourages you to quit that demeaning habit once and for all. It is our right to remember that our lungs are as important as the Amazon Forest. Parents-to-be smokers have a likely effect on the health of their offspring(s). Infants from teen or young parents who smoke are more likely to have ear infections, pneumonia, and bronchitis during the initial stages of their lives. Studies suggest that they also have a higher risk of sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Prenatal counseling sessions for smoking parents must be made compulsory as most people in the community do not yet realize what serious threats they pose to their future generation. Adult smokers must have a sense of realization that smoking can cost them their own lives, their loved ones’ and their future marks or generation. Initiating organizations, websites, and workshops in wards, residential areas, schools, and offices where people can seek advice for withdrawal will be helpful.

These sources must be easily accessible for the people irrespective of their economic or personal background. A person who voluntarily takes part in this, must not be judged or smirked upon, instead, they should be given appreciation for wanting to stop his/her addiction. By providing these people in need with nicotine patches, mindful therapy, exercises, etc, these workshops will act as a non-judgemental, non-toxic atmosphere, making individuals genuinely want to stop their behavior. People who have already gotten into a daily ritual of smoking or people who are not interested in quitting must ensure that they do not risk the lives of the people around them. This remaining population of daily smokers must respect the right of life and right to the highest attainable standard of health of others by not exposing them to second-hand smoke.

The duty to protect the non-smoking percentile of the nation from tobacco smoke is an obligation that should be taken care of by the government to enact legislation. In order to provide protection from exposure to smoke, a smoke-free environment is necessary. These zones must be at least 9 meters from public spots and can be enclosed within smoke-absorbing plants such as spider lily, areca palm, bamboo, and so on. It is to be noted that these zones will prove effective only if they are implemented in every nook and corner including lanes, villages, etc. Clear, simple, and powerful laws must be enforced by the government for all who dare to disobey. It was ultimately my grandfather who decided he had to stop. Change has to start within oneself. Law interferes when one is not doing their duty as a human individual. By following the aforementioned practices, I strongly believe that we will be able to protect ourselves and our future generation.

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Sreenandana S Nair Lecole Chempaka Silver Rocks, Sreekaryam