The Higher Population Council (HPC) has raised an alarm against tobacco use, identifying it as a key instigator of chronic diseases and a lethal contributor to noncommunicable disease-related deaths, which account for a whopping 75 percent of all fatalities.
On the eve of World No Tobacco Day, observed annually on May 31, the Council warns in a Tuesday press release of the harrowing link between smoking and lung cancer, the foremost cause of cancer fatalities among both genders worldwide.
In the Jordanian context, it is the second most common cancer among males, responsible for 11 percent of all cancers. The 2018 annual report on recorded cancer cases in Jordan reveals lung tumors as the leading cause of death in males, with a rate of 22.4 percent.
The Council takes note of the burgeoning trend of cafes proffering hookahs for tobacco and charcoal smoking, detrimental to health and squandering precious time. The Greater Amman Municipality alone houses over 2,938 licensed cafes as per the 2017-2018 Population and Family Health Survey from the Department of Statistics.
An alarming surge in smoking, be it cigarettes, hookahs, or other tobacco forms, has been observed among both sexes, particularly males. Approximately 45 percent of men aged 15-49 years puff more than 25 cigarettes daily, with 12 percent of women in the same age group lighting up too. Notably, this dangerous habit does not spare even children below 15 years of age.
Speaking of the economic brunt of smoking, the aforementioned national survey reveals an average annual household expenditure of 540.3 dinars on tobacco or cigarettes, according to the 2017-2018 Household Income and Expenditure Survey. Jordan’s 2021 tobacco imports totaled around 48.685 million dinars, and the nation houses 29 tobacco product manufacturing establishments as per the Department of Statistics’ data.
In parallel, the National Stepwise Survey (STEPs) to monitor risk factors linked with noncommunicable diseases in 2019, conducted by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, shows that 41 percent of the population aged 18-69 years were smokers. Of these, 9.2 percent were current smokers of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices (VAPE).
The prevalence of tobacco use was significantly higher in men than women. While 65.3 percent of men were traditional tobacco users (manufactured cigarettes, hand-rolled cigarettes, hookahs, pipes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco), and 15 percent used modern products such as e-cigarettes and vaping devices, only 16.4 percent of women smoked traditional tobacco and a mere 4.2 percent used modern products. The numbers escalate alarmingly within the younger age group across both genders.
Smokers in the age group of 18-69 years have been indulging in the habit for an average of 17 years, extending up to 35 years in the 45-69 age bracket. Men typically start smoking at a younger age than women, averaging at 17 years for men and 24 for women. Shockingly, 34.7 percent of current smokers confessed to starting before the age of 16, and on an average, a smoker consumes 21 manufactured cigarettes per day.
On the passive smoking front, 80 percent of survey respondents reported exposure to secondhand smoke in the past month. In homes, public transportation, workplaces, restaurants, government institutes, healthcare facilities, universities, and schools, the rates were respectively 63, 37, 19, 14, 7, 6, and 6 percent.
As per the stepwise national survey, the average monthly expenditure on manufactured cigarettes was 60.3 dinars, equivalent to 5.9 percent of the per capita gross domestic product. Hookah users shell out an average of 13 dinars per month. The economic cost of tobacco use includes heightened healthcare expenses for treating tobacco-induced diseases and the loss of human capital due to mortality and morbidity attributed to tobacco.
A disturbing 80 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, bearing the brunt of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. Tobacco use exacerbates poverty, diverting funds from essentials like food and shelter to tobacco. It drains the global economy of a staggering US$1.4 trillion per annum.
About 349 million people across 79 countries face acute food insecurity, with many residing in low- and middle-income countries. Tobacco cultivation, spreading over 3.2 million hectares of fertile land in more than 124 countries, brings about harmful health, environmental, and social impacts, consequently causing a negative economic impact in the cultivating countries.
Source: Jordan News Agency