Trusted viewers, welcome to this week’s edition of Healthy Living where we are commemorating “World No Tobacco Day” which is observed globally every year on May 31.

This very important day was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote tobacco abstinence and raise awareness on the harms of tobacco. According to the WHO, tobacco is the world’s leading cause of preventable death and it is estimated that in this century the intoxicant could prematurely end the lives of one billion people.

The theme of World No Tobacco Day 2011 is how the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, one of the most widely and quickly accepted treaties in the history of the United Nations, can save lives. Let’s hear a little bit about the Convention from Patrick Reynolds, founder of the Foundation for a SmokeFree America.

This Treaty urges nations to do three things which have been proven to be effective in the United States. First, to create strong smoking bans which forbids smoking in restaurants and nightclubs and bars. Even in the workplace, places like the airports.

The more you limit smoking and the smoker would have to excuse themselves at a restaurant and say, “You know I'll be back in 5 minutes.” "Well, where's Joe going?" "He's going to have a cigarette, you know". It's a little shameful to smoke, to have to go outside. So this is a good idea and it protects non-smokers. We know that second-hand smoke is very dangerous.

The second thing that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control urges nations to do is to raise the cigarette tax. It's a wonderful thing because we know that this will reduce the rate of children who become addicted to tobacco. There'll be less children who become addicted. It's a wonderful thing. So by raising taxes you decrease the rate of smoking among kids and you give smokers a very strong financial incentive to stop smoking. So people who are smoking think, "I don't want to spend that money anymore" and they're going to try to quit.

And the last thing is to spend money; the governments should spend money on advertising, very powerful well-produced ads by local ad agencies, who understand the local people, who deliver messages on television, in schools against smoking, billboards, and videos against tobacco.

A single puff from a cigarette exposes the body to 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which are cancer causing agents. Tobacco smoke is very hazardous to both the smoker and those in the vicinity who inhale the secondhand smoke.

Dr. David P.L. Sachs, director of the Palo Alto Center for Pulmonary Disease Prevention in California, USA and an internationally recognized physician, clinician, and research scientist in the field of pulmonary medicine and tobacco dependence now tells us more about the dangers of smoking.

So what are the diseases that direct cigarette smoking causes in the user? The primary ones are lung disease, including lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases. Those same diseases are the same ones that second-hand smoke-exposed children or adults are going to suffer from as well.

Studies in Japan show that if the wife doesn't smoke but the husband does, she will have a three-fold greater risk of dying from lung cancer than the wife whose husband doesn't smoke.

The effects of secondhand smoke on children are horrific. According to the World Health Organization, youngsters exposed to this poison may develop brain tumors, lymphoma, asthma, leukemia as well as experience developmental delays. The WHO also says that tobacco is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of the death in the world.

Simply put, as the World Health Organization published in one of their 2008 documents, more people die from tobacco dependence, and the cigarette-caused illnesses that tobacco dependence causes, than die worldwide from malaria, tuberculosis, or HIV-AIDS.

The updated numbers from the World Health Organization show that close to six million people per year are dying worldwide from tobacco dependence. That translates to 12 deaths per minute worldwide. In the United States, that figure is one death per minute. So it's astonishing because nothing else comes close to killing as many people every day, every week, every month, every year, in the United States or in the world than tobacco dependence. And it's treatable. But it requires that the individual take control.

Tobacco companies use many injurious ingredients including the highly addictive substance nicotine to make smokers dependent on their deadly products. Apart from taking the first step of deciding to quit the habit, Dr. Sachs suggests smokers design a prevention strategy to suppress the withdrawal symptoms and decrease the likelihood of relapse.

Such strategies include self-actualization techniques, meditation or medication. He says such methods are very important as without them, there is a 75% chance of relapse after 30 days. In addition, Dr. Sachs recommends consulting a physician with expertise in tobacco dependence.

The lungs and all of our body systems have remarkable repair mechanisms that we’ve all inherited. And so, as a for instance, if somebody stops smoking, their risk of developing lung cancer will drop by about 50%, each year. So a typical two-pack-a-day smoker has about a 30-fold higher risk of developing lung cancer than a never-smoker. One year after stopping smoking, that drops down to about 15-fold increased risk and so on.

But it never goes down as low as it would have been if that person had never smoked. It stays about 20% higher. But still, that’s a big improvement from 30-fold, to only 20% higher risk of lung cancer. However, with the brain, the changes that nicotine, the ultra-high doses of nicotine that the cigarette delivers to the brain, those changes don’t reverse in most people.

Furthermore, it is important to note that it is never too late to quit as there are life- extending benefits even for the elderly.

Even if you are 75 and have been smoking two packs a day all your life, if you stop smoking at age 75, you will live three years longer than you would have lived if you didn't stop smoking at age 75. There are very few people I know who wouldn't like another three years to spend with their grandchildren and to impart the wisdom of their generation to the second generation beyond them.

Smoking bans are truly an effective public health measure. According to a Scottish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “[H]ospital admissions for heart attacks and acute coronary problems fell 17% overall, and even more for nonsmokers, in the year after Scotland banned smoking in public places.” Also the study found non-smokers and smokers had 20% and 14% fewer hospital admissions, respectively, after the smoking ban was implemented.

In a study done in San Francisco (USA), before smoking in bars became illegal in California back many years ago, a colleague at UCSF (University of California San Francisco), in the pulmonary division there, did a study where he went, went to bars and he asked bartenders whether they smoked or not. And then he asked them if they had a cough. If so, how much? Did they cough up phlegm or sputum? If so, how much? And, he brought along a portable spirometer to measure their lung function.

Then six months, only six months after the smoking ban in bars went into effect, statewide in California, including San Francisco, he went back to these same bartenders and he kept them in the two groups: the non-smoking bartenders and the smoking bartenders.

In the non-smoking bartenders, their lung function improved a significant 10 to 20%, just in six months after their patrons could no longer smoke inside the bar. And even in the bartenders who smoked themselves, their lung functions significantly improved and their symptoms went down.

In many cities and countries around the world now, bans have been put in place in cigarette use in restaurant and bars. And a number of different studies, the first one came from Helena, Montana (USA), showed that when the smoking ban went into effect, the incidence of heart attack in non-smokers who were in the bars, decreased by about 90%.

When the ban was revoked because of a court challenge, heart attack death rate went right back up again. And that’s been shown now in multiple studies. So the harms of secondhand smoke are almost as overwhelming as the mortality caused by primary tobacco use.

Supreme Master Ching Hai has spoken on many occasions regarding the harms of smoking, as in this May 2009 videoconference in Togo.

A recent study found 81% of the babies who die from the tragic so-called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – you have heard of it – these were exposed to second-hand smoke. You see? We could kill the babies just by smoking. This is how deadly it is, and how cruel it is to our family members and to ourselves to bring such a harmful toxic substance into our precious body, the temple of God.

So we should quit smoking, we should eliminate tobacco altogether from this world. And also alcohol, we already know has taken many, many lives too young and causes so many problems, so much sorrow and heartaches, again not just for the drinkers but also for those around them, for their loved ones. So my feeling is, sir, these substances need to be removed from our lives completely.

I have mentioned some time ago that one can overcome any bad habit within 21 days. So it is possible to quit cigarettes, drugs or alcohol during that time. But during that time frame, the person, the addicted person, must keep occupied with constructive things, like their favorite hobbies, spending time with good friends, and supportive people, and other favorite constructive, pleasant activities to keep our minds occupied and our body relaxed without the addictive substance.

So, one of the activities could be finding ways to make delicious vegan food, invent some new recipes, do exercise, go to meditation class, do yoga, etc.

Our deepest gratitude Dr. David Sachs, Patrick Reynolds, the World Health Organization, and Supreme Master Ching Hai for striving to end tobacco consumption. May the use of intoxicants soon become a thing of the past across the world.

For more details on the dangers of tobacco, please visit the following websites:
World Health Organization
Dr. David Sachs
Foundation for a SmokeFree America

Caring viewers, thank you for your presence today on Healthy Living. Coming up next is Science and Spirituality, after Noteworthy News. May all beings flourish in happiness, health and joy, with blessings from the Divine.