Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living. – Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926-2022)
It’s time to ban tobacco products. There, I said it, what some are thinking but what we rarely, if ever, see in print. This filthy, disgusting, and costly habit is a national health nightmare with no end in sight. The deleterious health effects of tobacco consumption are not limited to those who are addicted. There are millions of victims of secondhand smoke, an estimated 47 million women and children in Vietnam, which explains the prohibitive cost to the nation’s healthcare system.
Why is a substance that injures and kills those who consume it legal? The difference between tobacco and alcohol is that the latter can be consumed in moderation and is not addictive unless you have a genetic predisposition to the disease of alcoholism. It is also not bad for your health if you don’t overindulge. Marijuana, misclassified as a drug in the same category with heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, is more like alcohol, in this respect.
Vietnam has a well-deserved international reputation as one of the most tobacco-friendly countries in the world. It is one of the top 15 consumers of tobacco in the world, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2015).
Cigarettes and other tobacco products are among the most inexpensive in the world and sold on every street corner. Nearly half of all men consume tobacco, including cigarettes, the most popular nicotine delivery device, e-cigarettes, cigars, and thuốc lào via water pipes. (Contrary to popular belief, thuốc lào, which contains nine times the amount of nicotine as regular tobacco, is not a healthier option.) Growing numbers of women, especially young people, are taking up smoking.
There are even shisha bars where people go to relax, see and be seen, and inhale large quantities of smoke. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the smoke inhaled in an hour-long shisha session is estimated to be the equivalent of smoking between 100 and 200 cigarettes, or between five and 10 packs.
Stay tuned for more. I’m working on a draft essay that provides more detailed information. I’m not sure where I’ll get it published but I feel compelled to write it.
Shalom (שלום), MAA