5 Facts: Smoking


Today is the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) World No Tobacco Day, which is observed annually on May 31. The organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) addresses several issues with the objective of reducing tobacco use, such as: tobacco tax and price increases; creating smoke-free environments in all public spaces and workplaces and bans on all direct forms of tobacco advertising, as well as public education. Jamaica signed the FCTC on September 24, 2003 and ratified it on July 7, 2005.

This Fact Friday, we share some information on the dangers of smoking.

  1. A single cigarette contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to cause cancer. The list of chemicals include methane, arsenic, carbon monoxide, lead, ammonia, copper, tar, acetone and nicotine.
  2. Nicotine is the main addictive substance in tobacco. It stimulates the central nervous system, leading to increased mental acuity and alertness. At the same time, it soothes the nerves resulting in calmness and relaxation.
  3. The WHO reports that tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. It kills more than five million people a year – an average of one person every six seconds – and accounts for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.
  4. Statistics from the 2010 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (read the 2000 report) undertaken by the National Council on Drug Abuse indicate that 40.4 per cent of 13- to 15-year-olds have smoked at least once. At least 19.4 per cent of those who have ever smoked were under 10 years old.
  5. Passive smoking or prolonged exposure to second hand smoke is just as dangerous as mainstream smoking. The US National Toxicology Program estimates that at least 250 chemicals in secondhand smoke are known to be toxic or carcinogenic (cancer causing).
    Long-term exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of developing chronic obstructive lung disease and developing heart disease or lung cancer by 30 per cent. Pregnant women who smoke increase their chances of suffering miscarriages. The baby may be born with low birth weight and there may be sudden death of the infant (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – SIDS – or cot death). Additionally, children exposed to second-hand smoke are at a greater risk of developing asthma, lung problems such as pneumonia and bronchitis and they tend to have more middle ear infections.

Visit the Jamaica Cancer Society’s website for more information on how tobacco use impacts your health.