According to the American Lung Association, smoking is the leading cause of preventable diseases and deaths globally, claiming no less than 480 000 lives in the United States alone every year.
Statistics show that smoking increases the incidences of coronary heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and diminished overall health.
A single cigarette stick is made up of basic components such as tobacco, chemical additives, paper wrapping and a filter and these appear so ordinary and harmless. However, when burnt and inhaled, this combination exposes the body to over 7000 toxic chemicals with 70 of them cancer causing.
Smoking harms almost every organ of the body including the heart and it causes nearly one third of all deaths from heart diseases.
To protect its population and in line with the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Zimbabwe enacted Statutory 1 Instrument 264 on Public Health (Control of Tobacco) Regulations of 2002 that prohibits the smoking of tobacco in public places.
The public smoking offence attracts a $500 fine or a custodial sentence not exceeding six months.
Is Vaping a Better Option?
Both vaping and smoking exposes users to some public health risks. While a single cigarette contains over 7000 chemicals, scientists concur that vaping exposes users to less toxic chemicals.
While scientists agree that vaping is less harmful than combustible cigarette smoking, it is however not risk free.
‘People smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar’
In 1976 tobacco researcher Michael Russell said that ‘people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar’.
Nicotine is not the chemical that causes the health risks associated with combustible cigarette smoking.
Tar and other toxic gases that are released from burning tobacco when people smoke are the causes of cigarette smoking effects such as serious illness and death from lung cancer and heart disease.
Nicotine is dangerous not because it causes cancer but because it creates the addiction to cigarettes.
Therefore, tobacco harm reduction scientists argue that the focus of public health interventions should not be on ‘nicotine addiction’ but rather the dangers of inhaling tobacco smoke.
Hence the drive for alternatives to smoke exposure such as e-cigarettes.
Tobacco harm reduction proponent and Director of Action on Smoking and Health UK Clive Bates argues that by making e-cigarettes less accessible or expensive, the unintended consequence will be that people will resort to the more harmful combustible tobacco cigarettes.
Based on the findings of a 2021 San Francisco study that showed increased teenage smoking following a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes, Clive Bates therefore recommends non-smoking products such as e-cigarettes to reduce smoking in young people.
What is Vaping?
When vaping, one heats up and inhales liquid nicotine (a component derived from tobacco), flavours, and other chemicals. Since there are many vape product manufacturers (e-cigarette producers) around the globe, scientists can not account for all chemicals found in vaping products, thereby making it difficult to ascertain the long term health risks of vaping.
Harm reduction scientists recommend e-cigarettes to smokers that seek to cut down or quit smoking, however this is not recommended to non-smokers and young people since vaping is not without its risks.
The most effective and time tested solution to eliminate the health risks associated with combustible tobacco is to avoid or stop smoking.