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Even non-smokers in poorly ventilated spaces are at risk of COPD

Our correspondent
Friday, November 16, 2012
From Print Edition

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Not just smokers, but anyone chronically exposed to smoke in a poorly ventilated space is at risk of developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020 from its current ranking as the fifth leading cause.

Renowned pulmonologist and medical specialist, Dr. Naghman Bashir shared this piece of information during a lecture delivered to medical students and faculty of Shifa College of Medicine (SCM) here to mark World COPD Day on Wednesday. The lecture was organised by the federal chapter of the Pakistan Chest Society, which has scheduled similar sessions in other medical colleges of Rawalpindi and Islamabad as well.

Patients (usually smokers or ex-smokers) suffering from COPD have difficulty in breathing, with cough and sputum; in its extreme form, patients are home bound due to breathing disabilities. It is caused almost exclusively by exposure to smoke. Eighty-five per cent of COPD sufferers are, or have been, smokers; the rest are non-smoking women exposed to kitchen smoke in unventilated kitchens, or traffic policemen or auto mechanics chronically exposed to smoke.

Dr. Bashir traced the history of tobacco, which was brought to Europe from America by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The tobacco epidemic then spread to the rest of the world. He explained the health hazards of smoking, which include heart disease, lung diseases particularly COPD, cancers of lung, mouth, oesophagus, stomach, and reproductive organs, sub-fertility, poor blood circulation, and worsening mental and intellectual health.

He quoted Dr. William Vaughan who wrote about the effects of tobacco in 1617 as: “Tobacco that outlandish weede, it spends the braine; it spoils the seede, it dulls the spirite and dims the sight, it robs the woman of her right.”

Later in his presentation, Dr. Bashir discussed a few myths about tobacco and presented facts breaking these myths. The last part of his talk was exclusively devoted to strategies on how to quit smoking. With the help of sketches, he spelled out steps, which, if properly followed, can help smokers quit. While sharing successful strategies to quit smoking, he advised smokers to set a deadline, which should be within two weeks from the day of their decision to quit. He advised them to announce their decision to all including family, friends, colleagues, and even the shopkeeper from where they buy cigarettes, and to seek support from all as they will feel stressed and may express frustration and anger. During these two weeks, smokers should practice to quit. “Whenever the urge strikes, defer for a few minutes. For example, defer this to after meal, or after responding to a phone call or completing some office or home task,” Dr. Naghman Bashir advised. He also suggested removal from reach, everything that reminds a smoker of smoking. “Do not keep a packet of cigarettes with you. Removal all ashtrays, matchboxes, and lighters from your home, office, car and other place of work,” he suggested to this effect.

Whenever hit by the urge to smoke, it is advisable to get yourself busy in some activity like household chores, calling someone, going out for a walk, or going to a smoke-free area like a mosque, library or cinema. “Get yourself busy away from smoking cues like after meals, or drinking tea or coffee. Stay with your children or parents so as to avoid smoking. And when the D Day arrives, do not take a single puff from then onwards. If you feel withdrawal symptoms, consult a doctor who can prescribe you some medicines, which help in quitting and also help in managing withdrawal symptoms,” he concluded.

The session ended with interesting questions from the attendees.

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