By Surihe Gaomas
Smoking a cigarette or tobacco is more likely to kill much faster than HIV/Aids by the year 2015.
This shocking forecast was made and is contained in a recently released report of the World Health Organization titled World Health Statistics 2007.
The report reveals that deaths caused by smoking could kill 50 percent more people than HIV and Aids by 2015 – and be responsible for 10 percent of all deaths worldwide.
The report warns that the daily smoking of tobacco is most prevalent amongst the lowest-income households in developing economies – the poorest of the poor.
“The combination of a higher prevalence of tobacco use and more limited access to health resources result in severe health inequalities and is likely to perpetuate the vicious circle of illness and poverty,” the report warns.
Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, officially expressed Namibia’s support for ‘World No Tobacco Day’, in Windhoek this week.
This year’s commemoration, which seeks to spread information globally on the dangers of tobacco use and why tobacco smoking is a public health priority, is held under the theme: ‘Smoke-Free Environments.’
“Making work and public places 100 percent smoke-free inside will keep the bodies in these places smoke-free inside too. Thus, I wish to urge the Namibian nation to claim their right to be 100 percent smoke-free inside primarily for the promotion of good health,” said Kamwi.
Smoking especially in public places makes people vulnerable to smoking, and such practice is not only detrimental to the smoker’s health, but also to those who get caught up in passive smoking.
According to results of a 2002 baseline survey on alcohol and drug abuse in Namibia, four out of 10 Namibians are smoking.
Statistics compiled in 2000 in Namibia indicate a smoking prevalence of over 45 percent. In that year, 30 males per 100 000 died of trachea, lung and bronchus cancer, representing a mortality rate of 25.5 percent. The same year (2000) saw 96 males per 100 000 die of lip, oral cavity and pharynx cancer.
However, in females fewer deaths were reported from the two categories as seven people died from trachea, lung and bronchus cancer at a rate of 4.7 percent, while those who died from lip, oral cavity and pharynx cancer were 37 at a mortality rate of 27 per 100 000.
What is even more shocking is that children are said to start smoking at the early age of nine or ten years, and get into this habit for just trying to be ‘cool.’
“I started smoking because of peer pressure when I was 16 years old. Now I enjoy smoking actually and can’t stop because I’m used to it,” said one smoker who has been addicted to this habit for the past ten years.
While for some it is a bad health habit to break off over night, others see the detrimental effect it has on their health and stop completely.
“Smoking is very addictive. They put the stuff in cigarettes to get you enslaved. And you still want to puff away nonchalantly – no way,” said one rehabilitated smoker, who did not want to be named.
She added that besides the many negative effects of smoking, she also notices the less disastrous consequences of what she termed a ‘filthy habit.’
“For one, your breath stinks. Your partner has to put up with your bad breath when kissing you. When hugging you, the tobacco stench clings to their clothing. They do not enjoy your company as much as they could, because the smoke bothers their eyes, makes their car and the furniture in the house reek with that tobacco smell. And all the while, you are killing yourself slowly,” she added.
It turns out that even passive smokers are more at risk of heart disease and lung cancer than those that smoke tobacco in public.
In an effort to address this, the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) together with the Ministry of Health and Social Services have been warning against cigarette smoking in the country.
The Tobacco Bill was first drafted between 1992 and 1993 and was tabled in parliament in 2005. The Bill has not yet been passed by parliament.
Once the Tobacco Control Act is passed, it will ban smoking in public places, which is blamed for deaths and diseases such as cancers, tuberculosis and stillbirths.