Falling into ashes: A trauma called tobacco

Updated: Jun 03, 2011, 10:08 AM IST

Supriya Jha

“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin. What else does a man need to be happy?”

So said the German genius Albert Einstein! But sadly, nowadays there are fewer takers for this novel idea. For, today`s man finds himself more in tune with a magnetic SRK, hypnotizing people into his, "thoda aur wish karo.. " and the result – man wishes to his heart’s glory, and finally not getting everything, ends up smoking, puffing his lungs out… And the poor fruit bowl of Einstein is replaced by an ashtray, like that of SRK.

Every addiction, including tobacco trap, sets in psychologically. Especially adolescents, because of going through the most sensitive phase of life, form a soft target and easily get stuck in the tobacco’s peat bog. Be it exam pressure, peer pressure, or minor fluctuations in relationships, even the slightest spark is enough to ignite the butt and get cigarettes burning in chain.

It’s only later in life that reality strikes and mirror stares back acquainting you with a completely distorted self – dark chapped lips, pale eyes, and tar stained brownish yellow teeth and fingers and the worst - a deteriorated soul and a marred personality. But till then it’s too late. Mired into a cobweb of cigarettes, addicts find it hard to quit the cartons.

And this is what 17-year-old Sahil (name changed) does not want to understand. Sahil studies in Class 12th and is under "intense pressure" for his upcoming IIT exam.

“Life suddenly seemed a hell lot calmer when I took my maiden puff, and now every time a nervy numerical puts me off, I tend to light up my Navy cut - for the starters,” chuckles Sahil.

Sahil is not the sole victim who is trapped in the vicious circle of tobacco; there are hundreds of thousands of others who have just stepped into adolescence and are vulnerable enough to try the masqueraded merchant of death which comes swathed in various robes. Be it the seemingly meek mouth freshener or cheaper versions like gutkha packs, beedis, or a bit more fashionably dressed ones in the form of cartons of cigarettes.

Also not to forget the ancient royal Hookahs, or the current in vogue form for the aristocrat kids who snort Nicotine in combination with other drugs, using a 5OO note to get that kick, unaware of the real deathly kick that is being parried to them.

Nicotine is the major component that goes into the making of the disaster recipe that comes stuffed into the cylindrical, seemingly decent, white paper.

With an ability to soothe frayed nerves that wins nicotine many a broken hearts, what it manages to conceal is its other dangerous visage. Nicotine hijacks the brain perversely. It is very easy to get addicted to nicotine as a mere carton of cigarettes is enough to make you dependent on it.

As soon as it reaches the lungs it makes a rapid run to the brain, releasing a feel good hormone Dopamine, and hereby it permanently changes the brain receptors, getting you hooked to the evil vice; harassing your heart into beating faster; surging your blood pressure and preparing you to gear up for a mélange of diseases that you will have to host later.

This is just a trailer of what a cigarette can do to you. The real picture lies ahead. Because, to your chagrin, there are some 7000 other deadly chemicals other than nicotine, that burn along with the white splinter releasing a trail of toxic smoke that is absorbed by the lungs only to distort and damage and stifle the originally flexible pulmonary tissue shrinking the surface area available for air exchange, leaving the smoker in an oxygen-starved state.

With a prestigious cigarette stylishly flanked between her index finger and the middle finger, 23 year old Sahiba (name changed) feels at the top of the world. Sitting outside the college premises, she flicks the ashes onto the green grass beneath her feet and puffs out a mouthful of ashen smoke. When I asked her if similarly she would put to mouth a tinge of toilet cleaner, or nail varnish remover or ever dare to inhale the formaldehyde she just used in one of her pestering chemistry experiments and also which is used to preserve dead bodies, or would she mind if I tossed into her mouth few moth balls; she disgustingly twisted her lips, whose darkened corners were concealed beneath a layer of lip-gloss, and stared at me with her big pale anemic eyes in a way as to question me how dare I ask her such things?

She never knew that out of the many ingredients of cigarette, one is ammonia that is also present in toilet cleaners. Other is Acetone, also a component of the toxic nail paint remover. Also present are formaldehyde and naphthalene that are used in obnoxious moth balls.

So next time you are with your favourite ciggie, do not forget that you are actually walking with a mini poison kit. Inhaling the burnt remains of tobacco is just like throwing your face right into the black hot flood of smoke emanated by a chimney or into the fatally toxic gas chambers that Nazis used to asphyxiate the prisoners during World War II. Because a cigarette contains both of the two dangerous gases namely Carbon Monoxide and Cyanide, which were utilized in gas chambers and now form a major component of industrial and automobile exhausts.

So if one enjoys a ciggie, he/she might as well try licking Arsenic or the chemicals present in a remote control’s batteries because Cadmium is a common constituent that’s also present in cigarette. Well if that sounds appalling, one must reconsider before triggering the white pistol which the cigarette is according to a quote which goes like this, “A cigarette is a white pistol with fire at one end and the fool at another.”

So very true, because even after knowing about the havoc that tobacco can wreck, if one can’t start thinking about eschewing the chalice of poison, then all the wisdom and lore gathered hitherto are rendered worthless.

Quitting tobacco seems to be an uphill task for all those who are too deep into the ‘ashes’ and fighting the urge to smoke is like fighting against a tyrannosaurus.

As said Mark Twain, “Quitting tobacco is quiet easy. I have done it thousands of times.”

It may be tough to quit smoking abruptly because of the upsetting withdrawal symptoms, but to try to reduce the amount one smokes is preferably a better option and this is where e-cigarettes can help.

Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine but no other toxic chemicals or tar. Looking like normal cigarettes their cartridge contains a mixture of nicotine, propylene, etc. called as e-juice. So when one takes a draw at mouthpiece, the e-juice vaporizes and nicotine gets inhaled within. So, one can continue this smoking-like activity to tackle nicotine addiction without taking in other harmful chemicals.

It’s encouraging to note that the good effects of quitting tobacco start taking place the moment you quit tobacco.

Statistics say that only 5% of all smokers think of calling it quits out of which a very few actually succeed in steering clear of the deadly habit. Not less than a hundred million lives went up in smoke in the 20th century and approximately a billion people are expected to get buried in the ashes in 21st century.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the epidemic of tobacco sends in smoke nearly 6 million lives each year. Out of these, more than a whopping 6 lakh people are those who succumb to the ashes even without inhaling an iota of tobacco, because these are the innocent passive smokers who bear the brunt of the smoke emitted by the active smokers. Hence smokers in a way are murderers too.

So, October 2nd 2008 came as a ‘breather’ for the victims of passive smoke when Ambumani Ramadoss facilitated the world’s biggest public smoking ban. Also it became mandatory to cover 40% of tobacco pack to be covered by grim images like that of skull and cross bones, diseased lungs, smoke arising from a tracheotomy hole, a coffin made of cigarettes and so on.

The ban on smoking in public places has for sure made a difference and helped in curtailing the amount of tobacco being smoked in the open.

If we look at statistics, a more demonizing portrait of tobacco comes to light. 95% of all lung cancer patients are suffering by virtue of tobacco. Pancreatic cancer is also common among the smokers. Other cancers caused by tobacco are the monstrous mouth, throat and lip cancer. So tobacco is the best tool that you will stick to only if you are interested in disfiguring your God gifted human anatomy.

Anyone, who in anyway tries to see tobacco in a positive light will be proved wrong in the end. Many girls smoke thinking that it helps lose weight. Yes it does, but just 1.1 kilogram at a time, because that is what the weight of one human lung is!

The British Queen Elizabeth I of the 17th century once praised Walter Raleigh for bringing tobacco plant to England from America: “Have seen many a man turn his gold into smoke, but you are the first who has turned smoke into gold.”

But she didn’t know that three centuries later, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI of England would have a part of his lung removed and eventually would lose his life to the same tobacco.

Similarly, for RJ Reynolds, a famous American tobacco tycoon, tobacco proved to be a Frankenstein as he succumbed to pancreatic cancer caused by smoking!

Hence, tobacco can in no way be thought well of.

Every time you light up a cigarette, you are actually painting in black eleven minutes of your already tremulous human life... Because one cigarette deletes 11 minutes off your life.

And every time one takes a puff it’s not just ashes falling from the other end of that white suicidal pipe, a part of one`s lung and life too, falls with the ashes…

So this World No Tobacco Day, either kick the butt or fall with the ashes – the choice is yours!

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