One reason that smoking is an important issue is the health aspect of it. Standing for over two thirds of lung cancer deaths globally, smoking is the main cause for the disease. Both direct and passive smoking contribute to the aggravation of respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis (TB). Hence, not only is this hurting the smoker but also their surrounding. It’s worth noting that the smoke can linger in the air for up to five hours!
There’s also a social aspect to this issue, because the smoking is more prevalent among groups with mental issues, alcohol and drug problems, criminals and the homeless. A big majority of the world’s smokers live in developing or transitional economies. However, a caution is in order here because laws such as prohibition and raised taxes can counterproductively hurt marginalized people even more, both socially and economically.
The externalities of tobacco consumption extend even further. The production chain of tobacco involves deforestation, the use of pesticides and other waste products. Due to the many consequences it’s in the interest of governments to reduce smoking, which many try to do. For example the WHO has implemented a treaty called Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) with the aim to "to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke". Another good example is Sweden – a country which is strict with it’s tobacco laws. To name a few these include strict requirements for the packaging, promotion and one of the latest restrictions which forbids smoking on restaurant terrasses. All this shows a big concern for this matter.
However, quitting isn’t the easiest thing to do. Studies vary in their estimated number of attempts for the average person to quit smoking before stopping completely. Some show an average of 8 to 10 attempts, others suggest 30! Some compare smoking addiction with that of heroin and cocaine. Considering this, don’t feel bad about having relapses, because it’s normal. For anyone who needs help quitting there are many methods for this: nicotine chewing gums or practical approaches like mindfulness.
Although measures to discourage smoking are being implemented and the prevalence of smoking is decreasing in many countries (mainly higher income economies), there are still millions of men and women that smoke today, not to mention the other ways of using tobacco. Maybe this special day can be taken as a first step to a tobacco free lifestyle. A 24-hour restrain from tobacco use is a symbolic action for The World No Tobacco day, so maybe mark a new chapter today by accepting this challenge!