Tobacco - The Silent Killer

Tobacco - The Silent Killer

By Murlidhar Shrivastav

"It may not look dangerous, but the seemingly harmless tobacco plant has probably killed more people than the sword, the bow and arrow, and the spear put together." If we carefully look at the innumerable ill-effects of tobacco, these words are definitely not an exaggeration.

India & Tobacco


Tobacco made its entry into India during the reign of Emperor Akbar, 1566. Today India is World's 3rd largest producer of tobacco. India grows 500,000 tones of tobacco annually and about 26 million Indians work in tobacco industry.

According to a survey by ICMR, there are 184 million tobacco consumers in India. More than one in three adults use some form of tobacco. The study revealed that 20% smoke cigarettes, 40% prefer bidis and rest 40% chew other varieties of tobacco combinations in India.

The demon

Tobacco, both smoking and smokeless, kills nearly 6 million people worldwide – one death every 6 seconds, and one million of the tobacco deaths occur in India, says the World Health Organization (WHO). As per WHO estimates, almost 50% of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.

Tobacco contains more than 400 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer, and also some poisonous gases. Some of the chemicals and gases consumed with tobacco are Nicotine which is used as pesticide, Ammonia which is used in powder to clean floor, Arsenic which is used for killing ants & insects. It also contains the poisonous carbon monoxide and Hydrogen cyanide, a poisonous gas used in gas chambers and also nepthalin, used as balls to protect garments from insects & fungus. These cause irreversible damage to your body and to your mind. Toxins released from tobacco go everywhere with the blood and thus, no part of the body is spared.

Diseases caused by Tobacco consumption


Apart from cancers, many investigations have confirmed that smoking is also a major risk factor in various diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, obstructive airway disease, peripheral vascular disease, peptic ulcer, infertility and pregnancy related complications like abortion, premature birth etc.

Cancers – not only cancers of oral cavity, tongue, larynx, Salivary glands, Esophagus are very common with smoking but is equally associated with cancers of lungs, urinary bladder, kidney, stomach, pancreas, and cervix etc.

Cardiovascular disease – there are 90% peripheral vascular disease, 50% aortic aneurysm, 30% coronary heart disease and 10% stroke cases that are attributed to tobacco use..

Atherosclerosis and smoking -- Smoking increases the risk of narrowing and clot formation in coronary artery and thus increases the incidence of angina & coronary artery disease, heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest

Respiratory disease it is confirmed that 100% of smokers get the irritating smokers cough which may turn into some forms of cancer later on. In 90% cases, it causes chronic obstruction pulmonary disease. Further it aggravates the chronic bronchial asthma, interstitial lung disease and makes you more susceptible to pneumonia infection.

Gastrointestinal system - it delays the healing of peptic ulcer to your discomfort.

Reproductive disease- smoking can cause impotency in males whereas in females it reduces fertility and also, there is earlier onset of menopause. In Pregnancy, the chances of abortion, premature birth, low birth weight baby are greatly increased. It may also result in deficiencies in physical growth as well as Intellectual development & behavior in the unborn child.

Brain- smoking narrows the blood vessel & stimulate the nervous system thereby increasing blood pressure and therefore there are increased chances of stroke due to rupture & clot of blood vessels in the brain.

Smoking also results into pre mature wrinkling of skin and also premature greying & baldness in a person.

Passive smoking – as Environmental Tobacco Smokes (ETS) or passive smoking contains all carcinogens & toxic agents, non-smokers coming in contact with ETS are at the same risk as smokers. Passive smoking is greatly associated with high risk of miscarriage, under weight babies in pregnant women. Children of smokers have an increased frequency of respiratory and middle ear infections. Passive smoking increases the incidence & severity of asthmatic attacks, both in children and in adults.

Smoking cessation- Behavioral therapy and Nicotine replacement therapy can work well in your effort to quit smoking. There are various forms such as nicotine gum, patch, intra nasal spray, inhaler, sublingual tablet, oral tablets ibupropion- available in the market which can help you in this endeavor. But remember, the most important thing is the WILL POWER.

There is no way one could reduce the countless toxic and lethal effects of tobacco consumption and thus, the most effective preventive measure for control of tobacco related diseases is to avoid tobacco use.