Monday, 11 May 2009

Second-hand tobacco smoke has become major cause of lung diseases and reproductive problems

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Second-hand tobacco smoke in closed environs has emerged as the major cause of lung diseases and reproductive problems in twin cities.
Records on patients reported at various hospitals in the city in the last six years show that there has been an increase in cancer and infertility cases by at least five per cent every year. About 15 per cent of these patients are victims of second-hand tobacco smoke, a term referred to people who do not smoke themselves but involuntarily inhale harmful elements from regular smokers.
According to estimates by health experts, as many as 15,000 cancer cases were reported last year in Hyderabad as against 10,000 cases in 2000. Infertility cases too went up considerably from 6,000 to 10,000 a year during the same period. Most of the cancer and infertility cases in non-smokers is due to second-hand tobacco smoke. Health experts point out that the victims are non-smokers who frequent bars, pubs and restaurants where smoking is allowed in closed doors.
"Neither ventilation nor filtration will reduce the impact of tobacco smoke in closed door environments. There is nothing like safe limits for second-hand tobacco smoke in areas which are closed. About 300 cases of cancer are reported to about 200 chest specialists in Hyderabad every week and about 50 patients are non-smokers. What is troubling is that the incidence has gone up drastically among women, who are mostly non-smokers," says senior lung specialist Dr Pradyut Waghray.
The problem of second-hand tobacco increased to such alarming levels that the World Health Organisation was forced to issue policy recommendations to member countries recommending compulsory smoke-free environments to protect public health.
A majority of the patients reporting at city hospitals and clinics are as young as 35 years and doctors link it to smoking in colleges.
Fertility expert Dr Roya Rozati, who has done considerable research on second-hand tobacco smoke and infertility, points out that tobacco pollutants will affect both men and women. "While it reduces sperm count and the quality of the semen in men, it leads to infertility in women," she says.
According to Dr SVSN Prasad, senior medical oncologist at Apollo Cancer Hospital, changing lifestyle among the youth, especially women, can be a cause of further increase in lung cancers in future. "Women from the IT and ITES sectors are taking to smoking. This is further contributing to passive smoking or second-hand tobacco smoke. The increase in pub culture can also increase the number of cancer patients in Hyderabad," he warns.
Incidence of acute myeloid leukaemia in mothers is also on the increase in twin cities because of second-hand tobacco smoke.

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