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August 04, 2020

Health Hazards: Smoking, betel-chewing, drinking, etc

There are a lot of health hazards  in our daily life; I would like to single out  three major  cancer-causing  menaces which men get addicted to, trapped  and are likely to go to an early grave. These problems should be tackled in a nation-wide scale and taken seriously on a personal experience.
Let us   start with smoking; it is a deeply-rooted habit in human societies. It can be dated to as early as 5000 BC and has been recorded in many different cultures across the world. Many people, young or old, wise or foolish, educated or uneducated, intelligent or stupid, happen to get hooked on smoking one way or another. Most tobacco smokers develop the habit during adolescence or early adulthood. The presence of high-status models and peers may also encourage smoking among the young. Sigmund Freud got his oral cancer caused by cigar-smoking and Adolf Hitler condemned smoking as a waste of money. UN Secretary-General U Thant and Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister and Nobel Prize winner for literature were believed to be chomping on cigars while working late into nights. The former died of throat cancer at the age of 65; the latter was exceptional and he died aged over 90. US President  Barack  Obama has recently quit his bad habit because he said he was afraid of his wife. In addition, I would like to talk about my next-door neighbor who did not drink and chew betel nuts; but he was very fond of smoking cigarettes. As he was a successful businessman, he chain-smoked two packets a day. He kept that life-long habit until he was struck down with a series of strokes, leaving him bedridden for more than three years. In Yangon alone, roadblocks which are set up to give way for traffic lanes in downtown become reddened with betel-spittings from passers-by such as drivers and passengers alike. This is an ugly scene for locals as well as for tourists who are often seen wandering around this commercial city. In our country as a whole, the consumption of betel leaves and nuts is believed to be as high as in such countries as Taiwan, India and Thailand. These countries have launched campaigns to discourage betel-nut chewing; we should follow suit as business for leaves and nuts has become booming in towns and villages alike.
How about betel-chewing? According to a news report from Taiwan, it is used by almost by a tenth of the world’s population. The habit is also culturally rooted in human societies and it was visibly seen in the palaces of Myanmar kings. Regular betel-chewers stand out from the crowd with their lips and teeth. The betel nut is a key part of many Asian cultures and can be consumed dried, fresh or wrapped up in a package known as a quid. Although the exact preparation varies across countries and cultures, the quid is usually a mixture of the slaked lime, a betel leaf and flavorings such as cardamom, cinnamon and tobacco. Among the ingredients, the slaked lime is seen as a particular problem as it causes hundreds of lime abrasions to form in the mouth. This is thought to be a possible entry point for many of the cancer-causing chemicals. It is hard to find concrete evidences of how to develop these bad habits. The reasons  are somewhat weird: “ I started chewing because everyone else did, one said;  we shared it with each other to build good relations, others  said ; and unfortunately  these men still don’t know betel nuts can cause oral cancer, a survey said. My close friend suffered from Bell’s palsy, an illness characterized by a distorted facial expression some years ago. Accordingly, he was given a medical prescription by a qualified physician and advised to practice daily movements of his jaws without fail. Instead, he discarded all the drugs and started chewing betel quids all day long, possibly in the hope of doing jaw-movement exercises. After several years, the bad habit led him to a total kidney failure; he has completely gone thin, becoming physically and psychologically devastated. Last but not least, I am going to discuss about drinking which can be roughly divided into social drinking and problem drinking. It is somewhat like, I would say, an invisible thin line between love and hate; you never notice when your drinking has crossed the line. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can sneak up on you secretly or willingly, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs. Frankly speaking, I tried the above three when I was young. I gave up the first two because I was struck down with heart attacks and quit betel-chewing because of red-stained lips and teeth when I embarked on a teaching profession which demands a clean personality. But I still maintain and enjoy drinking, presumably social drinking – a glass of beer or two pegs of whisky at social gatherings.  The problem is even after so-called social gatherings. I continue to sneak a glass of beer at nearby beer pubs which are ubiquitous at every corner of the streets in downtown Yangon. My wife and my sons scolded me at the expense of my reputation in a rather friendly neighborhood. So I have to stay away from the pubs even if am forcibly invited to join them or my thirst is irresistible. Generally speaking, people know what kinds of risks involved in the health hazards I have discussed.  I don’t expect them to these bad habits right away after this article. But it is never too late to mend. If you come to know pros and cons of what you are doing , then I will be much satisfied. After all, the essence of life is satisfaction, once said Irish-born writer Oscar Wilde.


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