For those who like to have them, cigarettes are cool, tasteful, pacifying, and a great tool for getting a conversation going. But for those who know better, they are plain killing sticks. Cigarettes are one of the leading causes of death around the globe and continue to harm both users and those in the vicinity of those who smoke.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. Tobacco and its products kill more than 8 million people a year. It does not even spare those who don’t use it, contributing to around 1.2 million deaths from exposure to second-hand smoke.
For years, health practitioners and leading global platforms like the WHO have urged governments to take stricter action against tobacco sales and purchases, but little has become of it. However, there is one country that is finally heeding these pleas, and it is none other than the Kiwis. Yes, New Zealand is banning cigarettes for all adults.
Killer on the Loose
Tobacco consumption is highly addictive and has ramifications for the entire household. At least 250 of the over 7,000 compounds in tobacco smoke are known to be harmful, including hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia.
The World Health Organization maintains that nearly “80 percent of the 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest”. Tobacco and nicotine are a lethal combination, and while getting hooked on them is simple, getting away from them is a tall order. As a result, smokers prioritize their tobacco intake, and in low- and middle-income countries, where WHO reports the highest usage, daily spending on cigarettes, etc. easily outweighs spending on fundamental needs like food and shelter.
Tobacco smoking is a major contributor to diseases such as heart disease, asthma, stroke, and lung cancer. Cigarettes and other types of tobacco smoking are as dangerous as it gets and pose more than just physical health risks.
Several studies have proven that cigarette smoke is in fact even worse for your brain function. The study found that smoking, or second-hand exposure to smoking, was directly responsible for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which in turn contributes to children developing a high potential of living with COPD and suffering lifelong learning difficulties.
A Kiwi Kick
Despite tobacco having such a high potential of causing killing and other kinds of physical and mental diseases, it is rather surprising it is sold freely across the world as a legal commodity. But Kiwis have had enough, and have decided to kick cigarettes out for good. New Zealand is to become smoke-free, which would entail resorting to steps like banning the sale of cigarettes to future generations. A press release by the Kiwi government has said that Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall launched the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan at an event in Parliament recently.
Speaking in Parliament, she said, “While smoking rates are heading in the right direction, we need to do more, faster to reach our goal. If nothing changes, it would be decades till Māori smoking rates fall below 5 percent, and this Government is not prepared to leave people behind.”
She said further taxation would prove unfruitful and “will not help people quit” but only punish smokers “who are struggling to kick the habit”.
“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offense to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth. People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco,” she added.
The minister said the government would not only make smoking illegal, it would implement “practical support measures for smokers”. “Preventing people from starting to smoke and helping those who smoke to quit means we are covering both ends of the spectrum,” Ayesha said.
The Kiwi government’s proposed action plan is indeed an urgent necessity to ensure that there are state initiatives in place that not only prevent young people from taking up the habit, but also help existing smokers stop the habit without condemning them for setting a negative societal example.
It is true that breaking free of an addiction is a hard calling, but it is especially hard in the case of tobacco and cigarettes as there are almost no alarming and immediate side effects to consumption. Alcohol gets you drunk, and chemical and drug usage have an immediate effect.
But tobacco is a slow poison. It reveals itself only too little at a time to fool us into thinking it’s not even there. And that is why it’s so cunning. It always makes one think they can quit, despite every smoker knowing they can’t.
To New Zealand, we say bravo for calling tobacco’s bluff. To all others, “Do as the Kiwis did”.