Tobacco History is Full of Misunderstandings and Secrets
The human established a relationship with tobacco long before the discovery of America. In Egypt, during the excavation of the pharaohs’ tombs, clay pipes were found. However, most people learned about tobacco after the discovery of America. In 1492, the Spaniards arrived in Cuba and saw people who inhaled the smoke produced by burning the leaves of plants. Believing in the healing power of this plant, Columbus and his friends took the seeds to Europe. The tobacco plant was named after the island province of Haiti Tobago. For the first time, tobacco seeds were sown in Spain.
Tobacco’s surprising power contributed to its rapid spread because craving for smoke was very difficult to control. Nowadays, facts about narcotic qualities of nicotine are known; however, in past times tobacco has been attributed to the extraordinary power. Also, it was believed that tobacco was medicinal, and its smoke deterred diseases and evil spirits. Tobacco was considered to be stimulant and sedative. Moreover, its leaves were used as a therapeutic agent. Tobacco smoking, as well as its use as medicine (in the form of tinctures, extracts, pills among others) caused severe poisoning that often resulted in death. Thus, this forced the government in different countries to restrict smoking. Application of different penalties in some countries was very cruel.
Despite that fact, tobacco still emerged victorious in the battle because its trade was not diminished, and the treasury income grew significantly. This fact led many countries to change their attitude towards tobacco and use it as a source of profits. Smoking spread with extraordinary force. A harmful power of tobacco until the 19th century had hardly been studied, and doctors could not oppose the smoking habit. This practice was reinforced by powerful advertising of various kinds of pipes, which became a source of pride of many collectors. In the form of snuff, tobacco became widespread; furthermore, the corresponding vessels, sometimes precious snuff, became popular, as well. Quickly and widely tobacco spread across the globe and became one of the most famous man’s creations in modern history.
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During World War I, tobacco was recommended to soldiers’ use. However, during the time of the World War II, the situation changed dramatically. It is known that active anti-tobacco company took place in Nazi Germany. After the end of World War, smoking remained ambiguous. On one hand, a cigarette becomes a part of the style of many important people, such as politicians, artists. On the other hand, there are numerous scientific publications dedicated to the danger of smoking. Hence, in 1950s, first filter cigarette appeared all over the world.
The 1960s marked the beginning of active fight against smoking. During that time, slogans about the dangers of tobacco products appeared on cigarette packs and television advertising was removed from the air. In the 1980s, tobacco control reached a new level. Most countries made economic attempts to influence the cigarette industry. Countries of Western Europe and America increased the tax rate on tobacco. In 2003, the Convention for the Suppression with the vicious practice was adopted. This document was approved in 146 countries. Nowadays, social policy in many countries focuses on tobacco control. During the time of smoking existence, tobacco managed to grow from the element of Indian rituals into a general threat to human health and to conquer all the continents of the planet. Besides, the latest achievement of cigarette’s evolution is electronic cigarettes. They deprive most of the traditional cigarettes shortcomings and can be a good alternative to them.
Smoking is one of the most common habits that cause damage to human health and impact his/her future life. Nowadays, there are many books dedicated to the question how to quit smoking; moreover, a variety of systems and techniques have been developed to get rid of this addiction. However, the main incentive that can help to overcome the psychological addiction to nicotine is the recognition of its harm to health and the desire to get rid of effects of dependence.
Smoking clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes. Smoking person’s heart rate is in 15,000 beats per day more than a non-smoker’s, and oxygen delivery to the tissues is significantly reduced as vessels are narrowed. Thus, smoking is a major risk factor of respiratory diseases, for example chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis and emphysema), pneumonia (Hope). Tobacco contains over 3,000 chemicals, 60 of which are carcinogenic that can damage the cell’s genetic material and cause the growth of cancer. It is proven that tobacco is the leading cause of death from lung cancer in 90 % of cases.
Under the impact of smoking, visual acuity is also reduced. During the long time, scientists have been talking about the eye dangers of smoking though only recent studies confirm the bitter truth that substance contained in cigarettes is dangerous for vision because it disrupts the blood supply of the choroid and retina. Every smoker and especially those who have the significant smoking experience take risks of formation of thrombosis that can cause the complete loss of eyesight.
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There are a number of diseases caused mostly by smoking. One of them is the obliterating endarteritis (vascular disease of the legs). The vasoconstriction occurs, blood flow to tissues and cells are strongly violated. Moreover, the worst consequence of this disease is amputation of a limb. Clinical trials conducted in recent years have shown that the skin of a smoker is aging faster than a non-smoker’s. For example, it is proved that the skin of forty years old women smoking for many years can be as devastated as the skin of a seventy years old woman who does not smoke. Doctors call these changes in human skin the syndrome of “tobacco” face. Furthermore, smoking men struggle from three times more common cases of impotence than non-smokers. Smoking women suffer from frigidity 2.5 times more often than non-smokers. The reason is that nicotine promotes vasoconstriction of genitals (Tavernise).
Smoking harms not only physical but also mental health (Hope). Smokers are more nervously exhausted than others. They shatter the nervous system and live from cigarette to cigarette being ready to erupt not as a result of the habit but as a result of insignificant matter. Due to violations of the right course of neural processes, a person becomes irritable, quarrelsome; moreover, he/she develops, as people say, “bad temper.”
This is not a complete list of diseases that are possible and inevitable for a person with long smoking experience. As such, smoking negatively affects the efficiency of the brain. Moreover, it slows down the response making it less clear and causes weakened attention, memory, reduced intelligence. Moreover, people whose professions require attention and memory must remember that smoking reduces their professional capacity and focusing on work. Scientists have found that during smoking, electroencephalogram changes occur indicating a weakening of the bioelectric activity of brain cells. The degree of attenuation of bioelectrical activity is proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked.
Passive smoking contributes to the development of diseases peculiar to smokers. The harm of smoking for people who are in the same room with a smoker occurs as a result of forced absorbing of substances released by so-called “side stream” smoke. Mainstream smoke gets into the lungs of a smoker, and a part of smoke that is released into the atmosphere is inhaled by anyone who is nearby.
Smoking in bars, taxis and other public places violates the rights of any person who wants to lead a healthy and safe life style (“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, n.d.). Experts believe that passive smoking is the most common form of violence against children and nonsmoking adults. The number of successful trials showed a real danger of passive smoking, which forced many countries to adopt restrictive measures concerning tobacco. Thus, in the United States since the early 1990s, smoking is prohibited in the workplace and public buildings. Since April 2004, in the states of Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, California, Connecticut, Maine, Texas and Utah, smoking is banned in restaurants and bars except the designated smoking areas. Since 2005, the most stringent standards act in Washington. Smoking is prohibited in all public areas, both indoors and outdoors, as well as within 25 feet of the entrance to any building except casinos (Rabin & Sugarman).
Passive smoking is unavoidable in the regular communication with smokers. According to scientific researches, one hour of passive smoking equals to the smoking of half a cigarette. Besides, experts estimate that during passive smoking for eight hours, the same harm is caused to the organism as after active smoking of one cigarette every 5 hours. The same toxic substances are inhaled by passive smoking as during the active one. Harm as a result of smoking is compounded by the fact that side-stream smoke contains even more carcinogens than in the mainstream.
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The effects of smoking are stipulated because individual doses of carcinogens are summarized in the body up to the reaching of a critical threshold.
- people who have never smoked yet live with smokers have an increased risk of a number of tobacco-related illnesses;
- passive smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases;
- the level of antioxidants in the blood decreases;
- long-term exposure of the passive smoke can lead to the development of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries);
- non-smokers who suffer from the long-term exposure to passive smoke have a 20 to 30 percent higher risk of lung cancer developing.
There are more and more researches proving that passive smoking can increase the risk of stroke, cancer of the nasal cavity, throat and breast (Tavernise).
In addition, nervous system suffers from passive smoking no less than from normal smoking. The most simple is a mental irritation of a passive smoker as he/she fully realizes the danger, irrelevance of permanent smoke inhalation, however, he/she cannot do anything. Naturally, nicotine (in the air around the smoker may exceed the amount of nicotine inhaled by him/her) exerts its effect on the central nervous system. This neurotoxic and psychostimulant effect causes the release of neurotransmitter action. Thus, it may manifest different methods, i.e. insomnia, somnolence, agitation, mood liability, decreased appetite, change in taste, nausea, weakness, dizziness and many others.
Children exposed to high doses of side-stream smoke, such as those whose parents are smoking, get sick and visit doctors more often than those who do not breathe tobacco smoke (Schimizzi).
The range of problems which may occur among children exposed to smoke comprises:
- more frequent infections of the middle ear;
- more frequent infections of the lower respiratory tract infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis);
- respiratory problems, including asthma (it occurs more acutely and perhaps even caused exposure to tobacco smoke);
- underdevelopment of the lungs;
- adverse effects on learning and behavioral development;
- meningococcal disease;
- cancer and leukemia;
- risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
Smoking and Environment
Tobacco harm to the environment is diverse (“Cigarette Butts are toxic waste”):
- Trees are cut down for the purpose of drying tobacco, as well as for the construction of barns to handle it. Worldwide cutting down trees for tobacco treatment is 1.7 % loss of all the forests; moreover, in 66 tobacco producing countries (almost all of them are developing), 4.6% of deforestation are a result of felling trees for tobacco processing;
- Trees are also cut down for the production of cigarette paper and tobacco packaging;
- In the process of tobacco production, various wastes are produced, including solvents, slurry, oil, plastics, paper and wood, as well as a toxic chemical waste;
- The rubbish is also produced as a result of thrown cigarette butts, packs, packs of cartons of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Moreover, it was estimated that in 1995, the world sold 5.535 trillion cigarettes in 27.7 billion units and 277 billion packs. Cigarette butts are the most common thing that comes across when cleaning the beaches on the coasts. Also, workers in the United States complain that sweeping cigarette butts monthly require them many hours of extra work. Cigarette filters decompose within 5-7 years. In addition, saliva of people using chewing tobacco is unhygienic and polluting;
- Cigarette butts are a major threat to the health of animals (e.g., cows that roam freely on the streets of South Asia) and small children in case they eat them by mistake. Animals and children are not able to digest the filter and can die;
- Tobacco is a culture that needs many nutrients. There is no such food culture that depletes soil reserves of potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen as far as tobacco does. Soil erosion is accelerated by the depletion of nutrients, especially in countries where tobacco is grown in the hilly areas;
- Tobacco growing requires using large amounts of pesticides, including severely toxic that pollute groundwater, rivers, lakes, rainwater and drinking water. An additional concern is the fact that the high level of pesticides makes it difficult to control diseases spread by insects, i.e. malaria since mosquitoes and flies develop higher resistance to pesticides;
- In general, cigarettes cause about 100,000 fires per year in the United States and one million worldwide. Smoking causes about 30% of the total number of deaths on the fires in the U.S. and 10% in the world. Fire damages are estimated in 5.34-22.8 billion in the U.S. and 8.2-89.2 billions of dollars in the world;
- Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals being a major cause of indoor air pollution.
By the way, there are a number of professional illnesses caused by tobacco manufactory:
- Tobacco sector workers can be exposed to pesticides and other chemicals used in the cultivation of tobacco. Exposure to chemicals, such as aldicarb, endosulfan and butalin may harm the eyes, skin and internal organs leading to cancer;
- Green tobacco sickness, or nicotine poisoning due to its absorption through the skin, affect workers culling tobacco. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and breathing problems;
- The people who work in places where smoking is allowed, such as restaurants, bars and many offices are more likely to get diseases associated with passive smoking. Fetus of pregnant women exposed to environmental tobacco smoke also suffers from this. In some countries, workers may become seriously ill because of exposure to tobacco smoke, successfully sued by their employers (Viscusi).
Often, talking about tobacco, people mention terms like “a world free of tobacco” or “tobacco-free future.” Although this sounds appealing, these terms can cause more problems than they solve. For some people “freedom from tobacco” means a paradise in which people live long lives free from addiction. However, for others this term means a world where a huge black market supplies cigarettes to desperate people who are dependent on nicotine, and millions of people who have previously worked in the areas of tobacco are unemployed or starving, or even are involved in criminal activities to survive.
Tobacco companies have come to the delight of the use of such exaggerated scenarios to intimidate people and force them to confront the tobacco control as a form of prohibition. Either of these scenarios is true. Unfortunately, tobacco will remain. It is impossible to make it disappear neither now nor decades later. It is the only disease the world’s struggle with which succeeded is smallpox. Realistic aspirations should be built not on how to eliminate tobacco. It should be established how to reduce tobacco prevalence to the extent that related disorders also become much less common, and how to protect people from other people’s smoke, moreover ensure that tobacco companies strictly follow the restrictions and adequately inform consumers about the risks that cause their products.
More realistic, a distant dream is that all tobacco products will be issued with a special label and will be sold in licensed stores. More than that, all the advertising and sponsorship will be banning despite the fact that all consumers are well informed about the risks of these products. Though, high taxes on tobacco products will be used by the government, including the tobacco control measures, such as countering smuggling and programs in the media about the dangers of tobacco in order to achieve a reduction of demand for tobacco. Lung cancer will again be the same rare disease as it was before the prevalence of cigarette. Morbidity associated with tobacco will decline as well, and people will put their money into something more positive and productive. Rather than bully people with pictures of the world in which tobacco suddenly ceased to be available and all people being engaged in enterprises of the tobacco industry suddenly found themselves unemployed, one should emphasize that the goal is “tobacco control” rather than “eradication of tobacco.” Annual decline of cigarette consumption, which in only a decade could turn into a real decline in the number of consumers, is a reasonable practical purpose that does not lead to disappointment and not intimidate those who are dependent (or in connection with the consumption, or in connection with employment) of tobacco.
Smoking is a harmful habit. Every year, new studies on the effects of this pernicious weakness of mankind greatly expand the list of diseases. The fight against smoking will become successful in case most of the countries will take part in it. The main thrust should be made on the proper upbringing of the youth. In the formation of can-do attitude to a healthy lifestyle, an important role plays public opinion especially in the youth teams. Moreover, the fight against smoking should be a part of the educational work, and it cannot be limited to slogans. Currently, all sensible people realize that smoking is a slow suicide and believe that this is a real tragedy to acquire the habit, which often leads to diseases and death.