Tobacco Smoking: A Public Health Disaster That Kills Half of its Users



Tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are today fuelling the NCDs epidemic.  These factors act alone or in combination to adversely affect people’s health.  In an exclusive interview with Dr. Gibrila Fadlu-Deen, Head of Department of Medicine and Director of Clinical Studies at the Connaught Hospital, he saidmost diabetic patients do not know that they are diabetic.  He said diabetic is nearly a silent disease which is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation.  He disclosed that recent medical research indicate that diabetes is responsible for 1 death every 7 second and accounts for more than 4.6 million deaths per year.

Dr. Fadlu-Deen said quite recently, the rate of developing diabetes has increased in the last five decades and can be traced to personal habits.  He went on to say that a proactive lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, avoidance of tobacco and maintaining a normal body weight can prevent, delay and even treat the effects of the most common causes of diabetes.

He says diabetic is more deadly than the Human Immuno Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), stating that he has not been able to ascertain the fact of the real diabetic statistics in the country because no survey has been conducted in that regard. He admonished that in order to reduce the chances of contracting diabetes; one must not drink alcohol more than one pint in a day, revealing that more than one pint intake of alcohol by women causes miscarriage, defunct children, cancer and lung cancer.

The Voiceless recently learnt that the rate of developing diabetes has increased by 700 per cent in the last five decades and can be traced to personal habits.  A proactive lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, avoidance of tobacco and maintaining a normal body weight can prevent, delay and even treat the effects of the most common causes of diabetes.

One of the best ways to reduce diabetes and other NCDs is to eat more of the foods you’ve always known are good for you.  Eat a colourful variety of fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables are low in fats and are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. To help one’s blood pressure under control, and therefore lower the risk of heart disease, limit the amount of salt you consume.

As many as one in six deaths can be linked to physical inactivity, according to Dr. I-Min Lee, the lead researcher from Harvard Medical School, only about one quarter of the world’s population smokes, but about two-thirds are inactive.

According Dr. Cory Couillard, a health care analyst, tobacco use is a global epidemic that brings disability, disease, lost productivity and death to entire countries and regions throughout the world.  Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable death despite aggressive national educational campaigns. Nearly 6 million tobacco users die every year via cancer, heart disease, lung disease and other chronic, long-term health conditions.  The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health disasters as it kills up to half of its users.  Over the course of the 21st century, tobacco use could kill up to a billion people unless urgent action is taken.

According to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organisation, “The tobacco epidemic is entirely man made, and it can be turned around through the concerted efforts of the government and relevant Civil Society groups,” adding that 320,000 young people between the age of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes resulting in 9 percent of all deaths in that age group.


Nicotine, the addictive component in tobacco is known to accelerate the heart rate and raise blood pressure.


According to the World Heart Federation, in one of their recent reports launched, nicotine can damage the lining of the blood vessels, increase fatty deposits in the arteries, increase blood clotting, raise bad cholesterol, reduce good cholesterol and promote coronary artery spasm.

Findings further made by The Voiceless further revealed that the harmful use of alcohol is a global problem that claims at least 2.5million lives per year.  The sad reality is that many of the lives lost are caused by an intoxicated person’s poor choices that ultimately resulted in the harm of others.  Alcohol use is very similar to concept of second hand smoke, it impacts everyone around us.

Nearly everyone knows someone that has been harmed intentionally or unintentionally by risky alcohol practices.  Fatal accidents resulting from traffic accidents, violence and suicides tend to occur in younger age groups but are not limited to youth or any gender group.

To curb the escalating burden of NCD’s the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo has organized the Multi-Stakeholder’ Dialogue on addressing Risk Factors for NCDs in the African Region.

About 200 delegates are expected to participate, including Public Health experts on NCDs and risks factors, researchers and medical practitioners, senior officials representing relevant government Ministries, consumer organizations, the food industry, intergovernmental organizations and other health stakeholders.

In another development, Sierra Leonean national and medical practitioner in the United States of America, Dijae Allie Azim, implored Sierra Leoneans to promote healthy diets to prevent certain preventable disease such as cardiac arrest, cancer and lung cancer among host of other diseases. She also disclosed that some NCDs’ death occurs prematurely during the most productive years of life, and this negatively impacts economic growth and development.

She emphasized strengthening the capacity of health services to tackle the clinical aspects of chronic diseases using the primary health care approach, including ensuring quality staff, and making medicines and technologies accessible should be promoted with utmost sincerity.

“We can strongly reduce the impact of future disease by tackling daily risk and find common grounds culturally, socially and economically,” said Azim, adding that we should encourage efforts to promote healthy diet and exercise and stop tobacco smoking.

She said education may be initially needed, but action and follow-up is required to make a true difference. She affirmed that: “We have no option; we must put more effort into prevention of diseases and promotion of health and healthy lifestyles.”