The kaleidoscopic and encyclopedic documentation of events as they unfold in the global human scenario remains cardinally imperative. This is to enable us learn from the mistakes of the past, and improve on our present and future engagements. There are dates, but there are also dates. When Dr. J.E Gillman announced an x-ray treatment for breast cancer in 1901, when Lenin seized power in Russia after the October Revolution in 1917, when Chloroform was first used as anesthetic in 1847, when 15 years old Dalai Lama assumed power in Tibet in 1950, when the first edition of encyclopedia Britannica was published in 1768 and when Guglielmo Macaroni sent the first transatlantic telegraph message in 1902 the world was stunned. But when in 1926, the link between cigarette smoking and cancer was discovered, the world stood still. But cigarette manufacturers and smokers have continued their mortal habit with suicidal intensity.
A cigarette is a short-cinctured tightly rolled cylinder of tobacco, wrapped in thin paper for smoking. A tobacco is a plant with large leaves, which is dried and prepared for smoking, snuffing, chewing, piping and inhaling. A person or shop that sells tobacco, cigarettes and pipes is called a tobacconist. The act and habit of smoking is as old as man. Because of its lethal effect, cigarettes have been severally called trinitrotoluene (TNT) carrot, cancer stick and coffin nails etc.
According to scientist and environmentalist, tobacco smoking is most likely to cause cancer, leukemia, osteoporosis, cardiovascular or respiratory, infertility and abnormal palpitation diseases. In its 1998 report, the World Health Organization, WHO, posited that 16.71 or 31 percent of the 53.9 deaths were caused by the cardiovascular diseases. According to WHO, tobacco-related illnesses will be the world’s leading killers by the year 2020, responsible for more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, road accidents, murders and suicides put together. Population in developing nations face the greatest risk as 85 percent of all smokers will come from those countries by the mid 2020s. The Republic of Ireland have 204 deaths a year per 100,000 people from respiratory diseases, Hungary has 313 deaths per annum per 100,000 people and Guernsey in the Channel Island has a record 314 deaths a year per 100,000 people from cancer.
Governments all over the world, especially in Europe are making conscious social and desperate legislative efforts aimed at curtailing the excesses of smokers and the cigarette industries are treated as ‘corporate persons’ and are made to pay heavy taxes to government and compensation to sick smokers. There are designated no – go and no – smoking areas to protect non- smokers in most European countries and in Lagos State, Nigeria. It is compulsory for industries to conspicuously display the caveat or warning that “cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health” and that “smokers are liable to die young”.
Apart from the computer, steel and marine industries, cigarette industry remains one of the fastest growing industries in Africa. This is because rejected tobacco industries in Europe and America are finding their way to Africa due to the inability of African governments to legislatively protect its people from the harmful effects of smoking, apart from the Lagos State government. And even where legislation exists, they have no bite, because of corruption and the backward economies resulting in massive unemployment and poverty. The result is that Africa is suffering from heavy environmental toxicity and deaths due to cigarette smoking. The cigarette smoking onslaught in Africa says Dr. keith Ball, British cardiologist “short of nuclear war or famine, cigarette smoking is the greatest single threat to the future health of Africa”.
Multinational tobacco giants hire farmers to grow tobacco and they also acquire large spans of land for their own tobacco plantations. The African farmers cut down trees sorely needed for cooking, heating and housing and use them as fuel to cure tobacco leaves. They grow lucrative tobacco crops instead of less profitable food crops. Impoverished Africans commonly spend a large proportion of their scanty income on cigarettes. So African families wither and suffer from malnutrition while the coffers of Western and Africa tobacco companies grow fat from the profits. Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America are all targeted by European companies who see the developing world as one gigantic business opportunity. But, teeming Asia is by far the biggest goldmine of them all. China alone presently has more smokers than the entire population of United States, 300 million. They smoke a staggering 1.6 trillion cigarettes a year. One third of the total consumed in the world.
The 1993 report published by United states Environmental protection Agency revealed that passive or non smokers living, inhaling or staying around smokers and the whiff of their cigarette smoke are likely to develop lung cancer and heart diseases The puffed and spiraling smoke contains cancinogenous compounds and 700 different additives, namely; heavy metals, pesticides, lungs of smokers and of people nearby are exposed to at least 43 known cancer- causing agents. For young children, exposure to smoke results in 150,000 to 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia annually. Smoke aggravates asthmatic symptoms for 200,000 – 1,000,000 children each year in the United States.
On the 14th Oct. 1347, trading ships from the East entered the habour of Messina in Sicily. At the oars were diseased and dying men. On their bodies were dark egg-sized swellings that oozed blood and pus. The sailors suffered intense pain and died within several days of the appearances of the first symptoms. Rats from the ships scurried to join the local rodent population. The rats carried fleas infected by a bacillus lethal to humans, thus spreading the epidemic known as the ‘Black Death,’ the worst pestilence in European history up to that time. They spread with terrible ferocity. In just three years, it cut down a fourth of the population of Europe a whooping 25 million people died.
But investigations and comparative analysis have shown that the cigarette smoking plague will be worse than this. It will be so devastatingly disastrous and unprecedented, that the world is best admonished to start finding solutions to the imminent cigarette- smoking epidemic, holocaust and genocide. Youths have become the millennial smokers because it is fashionable, quite ignorant of the horrendous implications.
From the foregoing, it is clear that smoking is dangerous to your health. But smokers argue that since it is a habit, they cannot give it up easily. But men should not be allowed to kill others by installment. Government can help by legislating and executing the non- smoking order in peculiar and special places. The Abuja and Lagos orders that limit smoking to specific areas and the rejection of over $86.5billion in the tobacco industry in Nigeria must be commended. The cigarette factories must be closed down. Let our people find alternative jobs than in tobacco companies. All their adverts and propaganda on newspapers, televisions and radio etc must be banned and their cursed monies expended on sports programs must be stopped. Our people are dying from nictone slavery and our government must salvage them from this minefield of social suicide.
Bobson Gbinije is of Mandate Against Poverty (MAP)
Cigarette smoking is evil (QED), and the temperamental and solipsistic conduct of some smokers when reminded that ‘smoking is their right, but fresh air is everybody’s right’, compounds the whole situation. We have read of smokers who are arsonists and fire- starters by leaving half stubs of unquenched cigarettes in ashtrays later resulting in conflagration, burning offices, hotels, homes etc. Fela said, “Something must kill man”, but in this case, must it be the horror of cigarette smoking. It is self – induced hara-kiri and suicidal to persist on smoking. in his victory speech presented to the British people on May 13,1945, at the conclusion of World War 11 in Europe, Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated, uttering a challenging call “…forward, unflinching, unswerving and indomitable, till the whole task is done and the whole world is safe and clean”. We must stop smokers from polluting the world, themselves and even ourselves. We must keep the world clean.