Just 20 minutes after you quit smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. In the following 12 hours, the carbon monoxide in the blood is reduced to normal values. After two to 12 weeks, blood circulation improves and lung function increases. Between the first month and the ninth, coughing and shortness of breath also decrease; and in just one year, the risk of coronary heart disease is 50% lower than that of a smoker.
Between five and 15 years after quitting smoking, the risk of stroke corresponds to that of a non-smoker, while within a decade the chances of developing lung cancer decrease to values close to 50% of the risk that a non-smoker would have smoker. The risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder and pancreas also decreases.
In contrast, short-term exposure to tobacco or cigarette smoke has a measurable effect on the heart of non-smokers: 30 minutes of exposure is enough to reduce blood flow to the heart. One hour of breathing air polluted by tobacco is equivalent to smoking three cigarettes; while non-smokers who are exposed to tobacco smoke in the home are 25% more likely to suffer from heart disease.
Likewise, research shows that this exposure increases the chances of a minor suffering from pneumonia by up to 300% and the chance of developing asthma by 35%.
All the above data are scientific evidence from multiple studies, and each one of them should be a compelling reason why the figure of 8 million deaths that smoking causes each year, according to the World Health Organization, did not continue increasing.
«It is not less important that, seven million of these annual deaths, they are due to direct tobacco consumption and approximately 1.2 million to the exposure of passive smokers to tobacco smoke consumed by nearby smokers,» psychologist Giovani Leal Luque told Cubadebate, a specialist who treats addictions and mental health in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Unit.
But, how does this addiction behave in Cuba?
Dr. Patricia Varona Perez, epidemiologist and researcher at the National Institute of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology (INHEM) and member of the National Technical Advisory Commission for the Prevention and Control of Smoking, of the Ministry of Health, sheds light on the consumption of this legal drug in Cuba.
One in five Cubans aged 15 and over currently smokes in the country
This is equivalent to 21.6% of the population, which represents 2,014,460 Cubans, according to the results of the National Health Survey that concluded in December 2019.
The survey, which was carried out in all the selected provinces and municipalities (including the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud), in the population aged 15 years and over, in urban and rural areas, constitutes a representative study at the national level by geographical areas, sex and age groups.
«This is the most up-to-date information at the country level before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,» said Varona Perez.
According to the researcher, “our biggest problem is the addiction initiation, which grows earlier in our adolescents and young people, groups that constitute the safe replacement for future adult smokers. In this key stage, (and also in others, of course) the influence of the social environment is vital for non-initiation”, she said.
According to data from the 2019 National Health Survey, the average start of tobacco consumption was 17.4 years, similar in urban and rural areas and higher in women than in men, a behavior similar to that observed in 2010.
The seemingly intangible costs of this addiction are present on a day-to-day basis. A study carried out in 2011 on the fiscal cost attributable to smoking due to loss of labor productivity, found that, on average due to this addiction, each Cuban male active smoker stops living 19.3 years and each male passive smoker about 4.3 years.
In the case of women, each Cuban female active smoker stops living 10.8 years, while for passive smokers their life expectancy was reduced by two years; all compared to what they would have in the absence of smoking.
The Statistical Yearbook of Health in its 2020 edition confirms an unfortunate trend: the mortality rate from chronic non-communicable diseases is the highest. Among these, heart disease ranks first, followed by death from malignant tumors. Both causes explain 47.5% of the total deaths in Cuba 2019. Common factor ?: smoking.
(Translated from Cubadebate)
Editora en idioma inglés del sitio web de Radio Ciudad del Mar.