By Keisha Hill,
Lung cancer is the second-most common cancer in both men and women, and is responsible for the majority of cancer-related deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 160,000 people will lose their battle with lung cancer this year, accounting for more victims than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined.
In recognition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control (JCTC) encourages Jamaicans to take preventive steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from common and lesser-known causes of lung cancer.
While smoking may be the leading cause of lung cancer, other risk factors should not be ignored. These include second-hand smoke, radon or asbestos exposure in the home or workplace, and family history.
“Preventing Jamaicans from becoming addicted and allowing their dreams to go up in smoke is the mission of the JCTC,” said Dr Aggrey Irons, chairman of the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control, in his message for World No Tobacco Day activities.
Tobacco use kills more than eight million people annually, more than one million of whom die from exposure to second-hand smoke. The tobacco industry uses manipulative tactics to market its products, including making them sleek and attractive, with flavours that young people like; films and TV programmes aimed towards the youth; using social media influencers to promote their products; promoting and selling their products near locations and events frequented by young people; and promoting their products, such as e-cigarettes, as reduced harm.
E-cigarettes and other vaping products have become the latest instruments used by the tobacco industry to attract a younger crowd, and their use is now more common among Jamaican adolescents 13-15 years old than conventional cigarettes.
According to the 2017 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 11.7 per cent of students ages 13-15 years currently use e-cigarettes, as compared to 11.2 per cent of those who currently smoke cigarette. The survey also shows that 10 per cent of Jamaican youth begin smoking by age 11.
“It is up to us to empower to understand the health harms of tobacco and nicotine and the deceptive tactics of the tobacco industry. Additionally, the full effects of COVID-19 remain to be seen, and we do not yet know the impact on the body years from now of exposure to the coronavirus today,” Irons said.
Research has shown that smokers are more vulnerable to COVID-19. There is substantial evidence that smoking negatively impacts lung health, inhibits the body’s responsiveness to infections, and suppresses immunity. Sound epidemiological evidence that smoking increases the risk of viral lung and throat infections led researchers to posit that smokers are at increased COVID-19 risk.
Several early studies from China pointed towards smoker’s susceptibility to COVID-19 by showing that men – their smoking rate is 20 times higher than women – were contracting COVID-19 at much higher rates than women.
In addition, the WHO has noted that the physical act of smoking, bringing fingers to the lips, increases the possibility of hand-to-mouth virus transmission. Smoking products that are used in communal or social settings, such as water pipes, are also problematic because they are shared and can facilitate virus transmission from one user to another.
As persons spend more time in their homes since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for homeowners to monitor the radon levels in their homes.
Estimates from the American Cancer Society suggest as much as 90 per cent of all instances of the disease are attributable to tobacco use. Smokers who quit can reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by up to 70 per cent, according to the International Agency of Research on Cancer.
Standard treatment for lung cancer involves surgically removing all or part of the patient’s affected lung. That may not be viable, however, especially for patients in poor general health or those suffering from chronic pulmonary disease, like emphysema.
The JCTC urges everyone not to be deceived by the tobacco industry’s tactics and to refrain from all forms of tobacco and nicotine use. Remember that smoking kills, and life is too precious to go up in smoke.