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Alarming: Increasing smoking use among young Gambians

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Did you know that smoking is by 92% the leading cause of lung cancer?

Smokers usually become dependent on nicotine and suffer from physical and emotional (mental or psychological) symptoms. These symptoms include irritability, nervousness, headaches, and trouble sleeping. The true marker for addiction, though, is that people still smoke even though they know smoking is bad for them — affecting their lives, their health, and their families in unhealthy ways. Nicotine is an addictive drug just like heroin and cocaine.

How dangerous is smoking?

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Smoking is one of the most dangerous habits to pick up for a person and it is even more dangerous for people with asthma or heart problems. Smoking includes products filled with tobacco and is inhaled into the lungs through a cigarette, pipe, cigar or bongs.

Smoking is a major health risk because it can cause heart attacks, long-standing lung diseases, and finally lung cancer and death and even cause birth defects of children born from parents who are smokers. The other forms of cancer caused by smoking are also gum, kidney, breast, throat, bladder, stomach and bowel cancer.

Unfortunately, we do not have reports about the death rate of dying of smoking here in the Gambia but according to the facts of biological and long-term harming of smoking and the long-term illnesses caused death of many, many Gambians every year too.

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Sadly, the fact is that the importing of poor quality of different kinds of cigarettes into the Gambia in a very large quantity is allowed and sold for far cheaper prices than in the western countries.

This is even more encouraging for very young and younger people to afford buying them and harming their health, starting at a young age in their lives. Cigarettes are available for sale in every corner shop in the country, sold without any control and any restrictions of age, even selling them in single cigarette out of the box for a few affordable dalasi in particular to very young people too.

It is so heart- breaking to see so many young male Gambian on many public places in front of corner shops and often on the beach smoking cigarettes and pretending adolescence given free to young people to have a test of it and make them buy later.  

More than 12 million people have died from smoking since the 1964 report, and another 25 million people alive today are expected to die of a smoking-related illness, according to the department of Health and Human Services

The death rate in the western countries from smoking has reached almost 500,000 deaths per year and some experts predict that 1/3 of smokers will have their lives shortened because of complications from smoking. Gambian smokers are not an exception, suffering and dying from these mentioned health risks every year too.

Danger of secondhand smoke

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. People who do not smoke who are exposed to secondhand smoke, even for a short time, can suffer harmful health effects. In adults who do not smoke, secondhand smoke exposure can cause coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and other diseases.

How does smoking cause lung cancer?

You’ve probably heard about the link between smoking and lung cancer. Indeed, smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer and is responsible for approximately 85% of all lung cancer cases. Even for someone who has never smoked, being exposed to secondhand smoke—which includes both the smoke that’s emitted from the end of a burning cigarette and the smoke that’s exhaled by the person smoking the cigarette—can increase the risk of developing lung cancer by approximately 20% to 30%. But, how exactly does smoking cause lung cancer?

Research suggests that smoking causes lung cancer by creating Cigarette smoke containing thousands of chemicals, many of which are dangerous. Although the human body can often detoxify and get rid of toxics, when it’s not able to do so, leftover carcinogens can cause the cells in the body to mutate, sometimes transforming into affected cells. The normal cell repair process requires cells to keep dividing until any damage is repaired, and healthy cells know when to stop dividing. Cells that have developed dangerous increases, on the other hand, lose the ability to know when to stop and will instead keep dividing and growing.

Not all cells are dangerous. However, the more smoke someone inhales, the more danger he or she will develop, and the greater the chance will be that one of those increases is cancer. As such, the longer someone smokes, and the more frequently he or she does so, the higher the risk will be of developing cancer. Notably, although dangerous often affect the cells in the lungs, they can also enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the entire body, leading to various types of cancer.

Symptoms; Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause signs and symptoms in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur when the disease is advanced. A new cough that doesn’t go away, coughing up blood, even a small amount, Shortness of breath, Chest pain, Hoarseness, losing weight without trying, Bone pain, Headache

Who is most likely to become addicted?

Anyone who starts smoking can become addicted to nicotine. Studies show that cigarette smoking is most likely to become a habit during the teen years. The younger a person is when he or she begins to smoke, the more likely he or she is to become addicted to nicotine. Almost 90% of adult smokers first smoked at or before at a very young age even at 10 years.

The nicotine in cigarette smoke can cause addiction. Nicotine is an addictive drug just like heroin and cocaine: Nicotine reaches the brain within seconds after taking a puff, but its effects start to wear off within a few minutes. This is what most often leads the smoker to get another cigarette. If the smoker doesn’t smoke again soon, withdrawal symptoms kick in and get worse over time

The typical smoker takes about 10 puffs from each cigarette. A person smoking a pack per day gets about 200 “hits” of nicotine each day., When taken in small amounts, nicotine creates pleasant feelings that make the smoker want to smoke more. It acts on the chemistry of the brain and central nervous system, affecting the smoker’s mood. Nicotine works very much like other addicting drugs, by flooding the brain’s reward circuits with dopamine (a chemical messenger). Nicotine also gives you a little bit of an adrenaline rush (kindly hormone) — not enough to notice, but enough to speed up your heart and raise your blood pressure.

Risk factors

A number of factors may increase your risk of lung cancer. Some risk factors can be controlled, for instance, by quitting smoking. And other factors can’t be controlled, such as your family history.

Smoking. Your risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and the number of years you have smoked. Quitting at any age can significantly lower your risk of developing lung cancer.

Exposure to secondhand smoke. Even if you don’t smoke, your risk of lung cancer increases if you’re exposed to secondhand smoke.

Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens. Workplace exposure to asbestos and other substances known to cause cancer — such as arsenic, chromium and nickel — can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, especially if you’re a smoker.

Family history of lung cancer. People with a parent, sibling or child with lung cancer have an increased risk of the disease.

What does nicotine do?

In large doses nicotine is a poison and can kill by stopping the muscles a person uses to breathe. But smokers usually take in small amounts that the body can quickly break down and get rid of. The first dose of nicotine makes a person feel awake and alert, while later doses make them feel calm and relaxed.

Nicotine can make new smokers, and regular smokers who get too much of it, feel dizzy or sick to their stomachs. The resting heart rate for young smokers increases 2 to 3 beats per minute more. Nicotine also lowers skin temperature and reduces blood flow in the legs and feet. It may play a role in increasing smokers’ risk of heart disease and stroke, but other substances in cigarette smoke likely play a bigger part.

Nicotine is what gets (and keeps) people addicted to tobacco, but other substances in tobacco cause cancer.

Why do people start smoking?

Most people begin smoking as teens. Those with friends and/or parents who smoke are more likely to start smoking than those who don’t. Some teens say that they “just wanted to try it,” or they thought it was “cool” to smoke.

The tobacco industry’s ads, price breaks, and other promotions for its products are a big influence in our society. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to create and market ads that show smoking as exciting, glamorous, and safe. More than one-third of the movies that show cigarettes are youth-rated films. And studies show that young people who see smoking in movies are more likely to start smoking.

TV ads for smoking have been banned for many years, but films that show tobacco brands are much more likely to include smoking scenes as part of their TV trailers. This is also another fact of watching these movies in the Gambia too.

Is smoking common among young people in The Gambia?

I am afraid I must answer this question certainly and surely with a big Yes.  Research has found that even smoking as few as 1 to 4 cigarettes a day can lead to serious health outcomes, including an increased risk of heart disease and a greater chance of dying at a younger age, smoking firsthand is not the only danger. Second-hand smoke has also led to the aforementioned conditions of people who do not smoke but are in the company of those who do smoke.

The dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke have forced many countries, cities and even states worldwide to create public smoking bans. Many countries have made it illegal to smoke in restaurants, bars, casinos and arenas and offices. I will be certainly thankful to Gambian Authorities for creating the same regulation in the Gambia too.

Smoking is extremely prominent in films and literature. The most famous movie star smoker was Humphrey Bogart and the most famous literature character smoker was Sherlock Holmes., There are a variety of ways for smokers to quit their bad habit. Tobacco and nicotine are extremely addicting drugs that can be difficult to pull away from. Some ways of quitting smoking are using nicotine replacement therapies which include gum and the patch, hypnosis, quitting ‘cold turkey’ and acupuncture.

What are the health effects of smoking?

While smoking has long been linked to an array of health problems, recent research shows that the harmful habit is worse than previously known.

The new report found that smoking is conclusively linked to leukemia (blood dideas, cataracts and pneumonia (lung diseases as well as cancers, cervix and kidneys. Other complications linked to smoking in the report included diabetes complications, hip fractures and reproductive complications.

The toxins from cigarette smoke can go everywhere through the blood flow. “I’m hoping this new information will help motivate people to quit smoking and convince young people not to start in the first place.”

Despite the damaging effects of tobacco use, quitting smoking has immediate and long-term effects such as improved circulation and a drop-in heart rate, the report found. Even quitting late in life can have positive effects: Giving up tobacco at age 65 can reduce a smoker’s risk of dying of related disease by 50 percent.

For further information, WHO website, email [email protected]; you can also send text messages to DR. Azadeh WhatsApp on 7774469, between 4-6 pm working days and to THE FRANCIS Degaulle NJIE FOUNDATION (FDNF) on Tel. 8903104/3903104. Email: [email protected]

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