TOBACCO is one of the most significant threats to public health.
Each year, it kills more than eight million people, including about 1.2 million who die from second-hand smoke inhalation.
Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, roll-your-own, waterpipe smoking and vape products.
Regardless of which form it takes, all forms of tobacco are bad for health.
There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco as the toxins can weaken the body’s immune system, making it harder to kill cancer cells.
When this happens, the growth of cancer cells can’t be stopped.
Tobacco smoke contains toxins that can damage or change a cell’s DNA.
DNA is the “instruction manual” of a cell. It controls how a cell grows and works.
When a DNA cell is broken, a cell can start to grow out of control which can lead to cancer.
Tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer, with nearly nine out of ten lung cancer deaths caused by smoking tobacco or second-hand smoke exposure.
In Malaysia, lung cancer is the third common cancer followed by breast and colorectal cancer.
Each year we have about 3,000 cases of people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer in Malaysia, with over 90% of cases found at a later stage (three and four) in both sexes.
Other than lung cancer, cancer can happen almost anywhere in your body if you smoke.
Cancers caused by tobacco include colon, mouth, nose and sinuses, pharynx (upper throat), larynx (voice box), oesophagus (food pipe), pancreas, liver, stomach, kidney, breast, ovary, bladder, prostate and leukaemia.
Over 80% of the 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries, including Malaysia.
Tobacco use also makes people poorer due to its high costs and it diverts money away from basic needs such as food and shelter.
The economic costs of tobacco are high, with large amounts of money spent on health care to treat diseases.
The global economic cost of smoking-attributable diseases from health expenditures and productivity losses was estimated at US$1.436 trillion (RM6.4 trillion) in 2016, equal to 1.8% of the world’s annual gross domestic product.
Almost 40% of this cost is in developing countries, which shows how much these countries have to bear.
In Malaysia, the government and private sector each spend between RM7 billion and RM8 billion per year to treat tobacco-related illnesses such as lung cancer.
This brings the total cost of treating patients to about RM16 billion per year.
Tobacco-related illnesses impose a heavy economic burden globally, particularly in developing countries. Governments need to undertake more strict tobacco control policies to reduce these costs.
According to Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022 intends to establish a Generational End-Game for non-smokers born on or after Jan 1, 2007.
The core of the Bill is to prohibit anybody born after Jan 1, 2007, from purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco and vaping products.
If implemented properly, it can save billions of ringgit in health expenditure and minimise the need to treat tobacco-related illnesses. We all want to live a healthier and longer life.
Please stay away from tobacco, save your money for doctors in future, and no tobacco for the next generation.
Dr Soh Yih Harng, DrPH candidate, Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming, Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Practice, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya,
Dr Feisul Idzwan Mustapha, Public Health Specialist, Health Ministry