Monday, January 12, 2009


The ills of tobacco abuse is well known. We have been trying to control the tobacco menace, for quite a few years now. The " Tak Nak " campaign is still ongoing. The corridor talk is that it is not meeting its objective and tobacco abuse is still rampant. Asking the public to just stop without any other recourse, may work well for some, but certainly not for all. Pfizer have these nicotine -like drug, " champix " for those who need some form of substitute, to help them wean off their tobacco abuse. Pfizer tells me that " Champix " worldwide has been very successful. In Malaysia, their use is still not significant to make an impact.
Well, China faces the same problem The first ( 2009 ) issue of the New England Journal of Medicine carried an article by Prof Dongfeng Gu from Fu Wau Heart Institute, estimating that in 2005, there were 700,000 tobacco related deaths in China. This was part of the China National Hypertension Survey, started in 1991. China with a population of 1.3 billion, have about 350 million smokers. About 60% of males in China smoke. Most of the tobacco related deaths are cancers. The second most common cause is cardiac related diseases and thirdly, pulmonary diseases. In India, the other country with over a billion population, it is estimated that by 2010, 1 million will die from tobacco related deaths.
Faced with these statistics, can we see how much health care resources is spend on treating tobacco related illnesses. Also how many productive males ( I mean economically productive ), lose their lives and productivity because of tobacco.
As Prof Gu wrote in his article, the problem with most countries is that we are severely ambivalent. We ban smoking and yet state run companies sell cigarettes and tobacco related products and derive good revenue from them. How then can we stop the scourge of tobacco. So it is in China, and I am afraid, so it is in many other countries, including India and Malaysia.
I am sure the government knows what needs to be done. But doing it, is another matter all together.

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