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World No Tobacco Day is Saturday
Health advice
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Linda F. Ratcliffe
Bryan, Liberty and Long Counties

World No Tobacco Day set for May 31

The theme for this years' World No Tobacco Day is "Tobacco-Free Youth." Once a socially accepted behavior, smoking is now known to be the leading preventable cause of death and disability in the United States. During the first decades of the last century, lung cancer was rare but as cigarette smoking gained popularity, the incidence of lung cancer became more common.  
The only legal consumer product that kills one-third to one-half of those who use it, tobacco's victims die an average of 15 years prematurely. Of particular concern are young people. Approximately 1.8 billion people between 10 and 24 years of age live in our world today, with more than 85 percent of them in developing countries. While generally healthy, many impressionable young people become habitual users of tobacco thanks to nicotine - the highly addictive substance found in tobacco. The use of tobacco by teens and consumers in their 20s easily can lead to a lifetime of dependence.
Globally, most people start smoking before the age of 18, and almost a quarter of these individuals begin using tobacco before the age of 10. The younger children are when they begin to smoke, the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users and the less likely they are ever to quit.
While there has been a decline in tobacco use in the United States, a dramatic increase in nicotine abuse has been documented in other parts of the world. Tobacco is the fourth most common risk factor for disease worldwide and the economic costs of tobacco use are equally devastating. Tobacco kills people at the height of productivity, depriving families of stable providers and nations of a healthy work force. Smokers also are usually less productive than non-smokers due to increased sickness and the need for frequent breaks.
The World Health Organization estimates that about one-third, or 1.1 billion, of the global adult population smokes. Of these, 3.5 million die each year from tobacco-related illnesses - that's 10,000 per day. One million of these deaths occur in developing countries where tobacco often is associated with poverty. Nicotine use forces countries to deal with higher health care costs, loss of productivity due to illness and early death, and deforestation and other forms of environmental damage. Nicotine addiction is a vicious cycle, driving poor individuals buy tobacco with money that is desperately needed for food, shelter, health care and education.
While the effects of tobacco in our country are evident, developing countries still are facing the brunt of this epidemic. Tobacco use has declined in many high-income nations but there has recently been a sharp increase in nicotine addiction, especially among men, in low- and middle-income countries. Close to 60 percent of the 5.700 billion cigarettes smoked each year and 75 percent of tobacco users are in developing countries. This alone justifies investment in tobacco-control programs. It is important to note that tobacco use and its correlation to disease tend to follow a gradient pattern. In other words, poorer individuals tend to use tobacco products more than their wealthier counterparts; similar patterns exist regarding education and socioeconomic status.
More attention needs to be given to the ways in which tobacco increases poverty, including the damage done when scarce family resources are spent on tobacco products rather than food and other essential needs. The money poor households spend on nicotine products - between 4 to 5 percent of their total disposable income - can have a serious impact as it shortchanges children and other family members on food and other basic needs. For example, if two-thirds of the money spent on cigarettes in Bangladesh was spent on food instead, it could save more than 10 million people from malnutrition.
Farming tobacco crops harms the environment. Plants leach nutrients from the soil; pesticides and fertilizers result in environmental pollution, and deforestation occurs because of fire that is used to cure some common varieties of tobacco. A recent study that assessed the amount of forest and woodland consumed annually for curing tobacco concluded that nearly 5 percent of overall deforestation in developing countries was due to tobacco cultivation.
Another critical issue is child labor. In the late 1990s, UNICEF concluded that child labor in tobacco production was widespread in many countries. It is predicted that the global tobacco epidemic will prematurely claim the lives of some 250 million children and adolescents, one-third of who are in developing countries.
Research suggests that by the year 2020, tobacco will become the leading cause of death and disability, killing more than 10 million people annually, thus causing more deaths than HIV, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, motor vehicle accidents, suicide and homicide combined.
World No Tobacco Day is Saturday. If you or someone you love smokes or uses tobacco, take this opportunity to stop or encourage them to stop. In the week before the 31st, think about why you would like to quit and how you will go about quitting. Select a buddy to talk with and call the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP to receive valuable information. Sign the pledge below and you've started a process guaranteed to improve your health.
I, _____________, have made the decision to stop smoking or using other forms of tobacco on or around World No Tobacco Day, May 31. This is a difficult choice for me to make, but I want to live a tobacco-free life for my family, my friends and myself. I want to be able to breathe easier, walk faster and have whiter teeth. I want to live longer so I can watch my loved ones grow older and celebrate special times with them. I want to grant my family's wish that I give up tobacco, and live up to my own expectations. If I make a mistake and smoke a cigarette or use other tobacco products, I will start over again the next day until I get it right.

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