There is no denying the fact that smoking is hazardous to human health as it causes numerous diseases and inflicts harms to almost all organs of the body. All types of tobacco consumption are risky. Be it cigarette smoking, cigars, hookah smoking or roll-your-own tobacco, they cause damage to health in one way or the other. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are some of the major health problems associated with smoking. Smokers are at higher risk for catching tuberculosis, particular eye diseases, and problems of the immune system than others. What is alarming is that tobacco kills up to half of its users. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than eight million people lose their lives to tobacco worldwide annually. Tobacco use, especially cigarette smoking, increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Pregnant women may also find smoking to be very perilous as it causes pregnancy complications and low birth weight.
A WHO report depicts a quite horrible scenario. It indicates that direct use of tobacco accounts for over seven million of those deaths while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. People living in low- and middle-income countries are more vulnerable to smoking-related problems than others as more than 80 per cent of the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users live in those parts. The economic costs of tobacco use are also enormous for those nations. On one hand, those countries are forced to spend a huge amount of money for the treatment of people suffering from different diseases caused by tobacco use. On the other, unhealthy people cannot work. So they fail to contribute to their families as well as the national economy. With high tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, these countries also lose human capital.
Although an anti-tobacco campaign has been running in Nepal for many years, use of tobacco is still rampant across the country. Even the educated people and minors are found using tobacco products haphazardly. An estimated 14,000 people die from tobacco-related health hazards in the nation each year. The country reports about 15,000 new cases of heart disease every year. A new study conducted in Nepal shows that about 69 per cent of them are smokers. Realising the fact that tobacco use has been one of the biggest public health threats, the country has already introduced necessary laws to deal with this problem. But the nation has been unable to control tobacco use as expected due to lack of an effective implementation of those laws.
Meanwhile, the government is now committed to effectively enforcing the relevant laws to control and regulate production, import, sale and consumption of tobacco products. Addressing a multi-sectoral workshop organised in Kathmandu on Wednesday, Minister for Health and Population Birodh Khatiwada expressed his commitment to discourage the use of tobacco products by taking appropriate measures. He also urged doctors to provide proper counselling to tobacco users on the negative impacts of tobacco products on their health. The government needs to increase tax on cigarette and other tobacco products to reduce their consumption. Creating wider public awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use on health is equally essential. Therefore, media has a vital role to play in educating people about the harms of tobacco on human health.