Smoke-the very word conjures up a foul unhealthy, suffocating, polluted environment with dark clouds of gases suffused everywhere. How then, can smoking or rather puffing away smoke to create such a defiled environment be permitted in public places where your every little activity is likely to affect your neighbour? The person who smokes faces a health hazard. Cigarette smoke leaves behind its deposits in the respiratory tract and is absorbed into the blood stream. Cigarette smoke contains a staggering 4,000 different chemicals of which 43 are carcinogenic. The carbon monoxide concentration in the smoke is greater than 20,000 pm which though diluted to 400-500 pm during inhalation, could yet lead to a host of diseases. It displaces oxygen from haemoglobin and the result is impairment of the central nervous system function, cardiac and pulmonary diseases that may eventually lead to heart attacks. Ammonia and the other hydrocarbons present in it. It could cause and other respiratory infection.
The hydrocarbons are also the cause of lung cancer. The dust particles in it may be the cause of eye irritation, cancer and emphysema. Its nicotine content which is a highly addictive substance, reaches the brain in no time and constricts the blood vessel, raises the blood pressure and gives the ventral nervous system a small jolt. In the long run it can lead to lung cancer, coronary heart disease, emphysema and reproductive disorders. At home of course you are your own master and are free to do whatever you feel like. You may justify your smoking habit saying “it clams me, it helps me work, think and forget the worries”.
But you have no right to disturb others by your smoking. In your office the smoke you puff may be a reason of smouldering displeasure among your colleagues that may turn into a conflagration. In buses and train if smoking is allowed, it may be cause of a great fire.
A spark neglected may burn the place beyond rescue and the smoker would then be guilty of a massacre! The smoke from other people’s cigarettes comes off a cigarette directly, rather than going through it and hence can contain three times the tar and ten times the concentration of carcinogenic agents as the filtered smoke that a smoker enables. Of course, the second-hand smoke gets diluted by the time it reaches a non-smoker. But that does not make any the less dangerous. Research at the University of Zurich in Switzerland demonstrated that when a non-smoker is in a smoky room for just half an hour, he can wind up with the same amount of carbon monoxide in his blood as if he had smoked one cigarette directly. Thus “passive” smoking is harmful and rather unjustifiable. For all the health scare or the fire scare smoking has caused, burning it may cause an economic scare. The sales of cigarettes are bound to suffer with such with such a ban, and government will lose revenue from excise duties.
The tobacco industry will face a decline. Millions of people working in these industries will be thrown out of jobs. When America work up to the fact that smoking is harmful the government sought to find a way out, it discouraged its own citizens from smoking through concerted propaganda but helped the tobacco industry by allowing it to export its products. And cigarette smoking was glamorised through advertising in the Third world. This unpalatable and unethical. India cannot follow such practices.
Moreover, even propaganda and the statutory warning has not helped in India as more and more people especially the young fall prey to the glamour of a smoke. If a government cares for the health of its citizens it should rise above economic considerations and ban smoking at least in public places. Toeing the line of the other developed nations of the world, smoking sections might be introduced in organisation and offices. Smokers could take refuge in separate smoking sections for a puff and least leave the non-smokers free of pollution.
The nicotine addicts might also adopt nicotine patches as a substitute for smoking. And thus at least do justice to other if not to themselves.