- By Maung Hlaing
As I was born and raised in rural area, the rural culture influenced me much. In rural areas, tobacco use has been socially and culturally recognized since ancient times.
In those days, I used to see our rural folks including my parents smoke cheroots almost everywhere in our native town. To make matters worse, according to the rural customs, (big) cheroots were used as gifts to the visitors at the Shinbyu or novitiation ceremonies, wedding ceremonies and other social gatherings. These social customs made the rural people including young people and even children smoke cheroots.
It was during my schooling days when I started smoking. I was then ten. I got into the bad habit simply because I could not discriminate between what is good and what is bad. So, I used to smoke on the sly. Whenever my parents caught me smoking, I was beaten black and blue. However, that punishment put me nowhere. When they punished me, a strange question came over to me. The question was “Why did they punish me for smoking while they kept holding big cheroots in their hands?” I was flabbergasted.
One of the reasons why I started smoking was that I saw adults smoking. I simply thought that it was a ‘grown-up’ thing to do. Consequently, I smoked in order to impress my friends. To be frank, I did not really believe that smoking will do me any harm. Quite reasonably, I was not impressed when adults warned me about the dangers of smoking. If smoking is dangerous, why do so many adults do so?
For the individual, smoking fills a lot of empty moments. It acts as a stress reliever. It gives smokers something to do with their hands and provides satisfaction. Some maintain that cigarette and cheroot smoke itself provides visual stimulation and may act as a comforting smoke-screen. These reasons occupied me and I fell a prey to tobacco. Then, what happened to me? When I started to write, I hardly finished a single article without smoking a big cheroot. I would have barely written a few lines or sentences before taking several puffs. This bad habit had been torturing me until the time when I retired at 60. It was too late. However, better late than never! Although we cannot definitely say the time when people started to smoke, they have smoked tobacco for thousands of years. The historical records reveal that in the 1500s, many Europeans began smoking because they believed tobacco had medicinal benefits. Today, people smoke mainly for relaxation and pleasure, and to satisfy a craving for nicotine, a chemical substance in cigarette. However, during the 1900s, scientists found increasing evidence that smoking can endanger a person’s health. In spite of the dangers, many people became smokers. Many young people began smoking as an act of independence. Most adults smoke to reduce their craving for nicotine of which effects help make smoking pleasurable. However, its effect on the nervous system also causes many people to become addicted to it.
Such an addiction makes it hard for people to give up smoking.
According to the World Book Encyclopedia, the first study on the effects of smoking showed that men who were lifelong smokers died almost 18 years earlier than men who had never smoked. According to the report, a 30-year-old man who smokes can expect to die at the age of 64; a man of the same age who has never smoked can expect to live until the age of 82 years. The survey was carried out in Pennsylvania, U.S.A.Now, medical experts have tried to prove that this bad habit causes ill health. It is medically and scientifically established that smoking increases the risk of such killer diseases as lung cancer, heart and respiratory diseases. The nicotine inhaled from cigarettes makes the heart beat faster, and makes the arteries contract. This can lead to blockages in the arteries, particularly in the legs. Cancer and bronchitis are caused by the tar and carbon monoxide taken into the lungs.
New studies are showing that teenagers with parents who smoke cigarettes are at higher risk of heart disease than non-smokers’ children. This is because the smoke that the teenagers breathe “second hand” raises the cholesterol level of their blood.
Although these harmful effects are well-known, people continue to smoke. Some people carry on even after having a heart attack or a leg amputated. Notwithstanding these facts, we have found it hard to quit smoking. Why? In fact, smoking is widespread and the habit is within easy reach for every person. And youths start the habit at first as a fashion and soon get addicted to it. However, all over the world, people who are intelligent want to be healthy. And they come to discover that one of the smartest things to do to attain and maintain health is to avoid smoking.
To make matters worse, while those who realize the harmful effects of tobacco are striving to wipe out the bad habit, new forms of tobacco use are constantly being invented. Those who smoke traditional cigarettes have come to use electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes. Due to globalization, some Myanmar adults have tried e-cigarettes which may be illegally imported. Although e-cigarettes appear to have far fewer of the toxins found in smoke compared to traditional cigarettes, the impact on long-term health may be affected. No matter how new ones are substituted for traditional ones, tobacco is tobacco and the smoke can harm those who smoke.
Regarding the tobacco menace, Myanmar never loses sight of combating the threat. Myanmar had implemented its tobacco-free programmes since 1980. Prohibition of Smoking at Theatres Act was enacted in 1959 and Public Health Law, in 1972. The Control of Smoking and Consumption of Tobacco Products Law was enacted in May, 2006 and it came into effect in May,2007.
While countries of the world are now carrying out activities that lead to reduction of tobacco in various ways, Myanmar has come to prohibit smoking at public places and designate smoking-restricted areas, ban all forms of advertisement, put up warning labels on cigarette packages, and promote health education programmes on the danger of tobacco. You can see the warning of “No-Smoking Area, Penalties Apply!” “Tobacco Kills You?” “Tobacco Smoke Can Harm you and your Children!” “Don’t Smoke!” at almost government departments and work establishments.
We should not ignore the millions of tobacco and its related deaths in the world. Today, almost everyone comes to know the dire effects smoking. However, people are trying to go to hell through the short-cut of smoking.
Don’t burn your money!
Don’t smoke to kill yourself!
Ref : 1. The World Book Encyclopedia (S-sn)
2. The Global New Light of Myanmar