Where there is Smoke, there is Flame


31 May is World No Tobacco Day; among other related issues, this yearly celebration informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living, and to protect future generations.


I grew up in the eighties and although smoking cigarettes was quite popular back then, I always hated it. Why? Because, like most men and many women of his generation, my father was a heavy smoker, and I could very clearly see how badly it affected his health. Not just my father, who died suddenly at the age of 57, but several of my uncles and aunts, as well as my friends’ parents, who suffered well into old age. I never could understand why many of them insisted on continuing to smoke despite the horrible coughing, difficulty breathing, ashen skin, and perpetually bloodshot eyes.

In this day and age, nearly one in four adults in the world still smoke tobacco. Why do enormous sections of the world’s population continue to smoke despite the overwhelming medical evidence of its dangerous effects? People are aware that smoking is harmful, yet continue to smoke because of the individual and communal pleasures it brings.

Tobacco, a Brief History

Tobacco played a prominent role in Native American culture thousands of years ago. It was used for medicinal purposes and was often exchanged as a gift, helping forge social connections and establish community hierarchies.

Sailors returning from the Americas to Europe in the late 15th and early 16th centuries took with them the practice of smoking. Many Europeans believed tobacco could be incorporated into Western medical traditions and celebrated as an almost universal cure. Despite some opposition, the acceptance of tobacco into Old World culture was assisted by the patronage it received from various aristocrats and rulers.

By the beginning of the 17th century, tobacco was being grown in India, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and West Africa. By the mid-19th century, smoking had become an established ritual throughout the world that was celebrated in the arts. Literary sources captured the paraphernalia of the smoking ritual—pipes, cleaners, holders, spills, spittoons, ashtrays, pouches, storage jars, and lighters, as well as smoking jackets, armchairs, hats, and slippers.

The Rise of the Cigarette

Cigarettes were originally sold as an expensive handmade luxury item; it was revolutionized by the introduction of a rolling machine that was patented in the US in 1880. The success of the cigarette was due to the business strategies of large firms and the rapid adoption of the relatively inexpensive and easy-to-smoke lighter flue-cured Virginia tobacco.

The first half of the 20th century was the golden age of the cigarette; in 1950, around half of the population of industrialized countries smoked. Smoking was an acceptable form of social behavior in all areas of life and advertisers were keen to show the full range of leisure activities made complete only through the addition of a cigarette.

Within this culture, there was little room for opposition to tobacco. In 1950, works by physician Ernst L. Wynder and statisticians Austin Bradford Hill and Sir Richard Doll provided firm evidence linking lung cancer with smoking. This information came as a considerable shock to smokers, who proved reluctant to give up their habit.

More recent evidence of the harm done to nonsmokers by environmental tobacco smoke has further helped turn attitudes against smoking. In 2004, Ireland became the first country to ban smoking in enclosed workplaces, and other countries have since followed suit. Nevertheless, the strong grip of smoking on the world’s popular culture suggests that the practice will persist.

Substituting the Cigarette


Nearly seven of ten smokers say they want to stop. Many nowadays are tempted to turn to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other non-disposable and disposable vaping devices) as a way to ease the transition from traditional cigarettes to not smoking at all. Vaping is less harmful than smoking; nevertheless, it is not safe.

E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings, and other chemicals to create an aerosol that the vaper inhales. In February 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 2807 cases of e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) and 68 deaths attributed to that condition. The CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with EVALI. Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent often used in vaping products, and it was found in all lung fluid samples of EVALI patients examined by the CDC.

There are many unknowns about vaping, including what chemicals make up the vapor and how they affect physical health over the long term. Both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes contain nicotine; e-cigarettes are just as addictive as traditional ones.

Nicotine-Free Vape

Recently, there has been a push toward alternatives to cigarettes that do not involve inhaling hot smoke from burning plant matter. A nicotine-free vape is a device that heats a solution of propylene glycol, glycerin, and other additives, forming a vapor that is then inhaled. They have recently become incredibly popular for people looking for a “healthier” alternative to smoking cigarettes.

Nevertheless, glycerin and glycol are both known to cause noticeable irritation in the upper airway, which can end up being the cause of a persistent cough. Nicotine-free vape come with a substantial list of possible negative side effects that come with every use. There is also the risk that certain chemicals or additives in nicotine-free vape juice can contribute to health issues or cause some of their own.

Many causes of a condition called “popcorn lung” have occurred because someone used a nicotine-free vape that was mixed with a particular additive, cutting agent, or another compound that was unsafe to vaporize. Once the chemical is vaporized and inhaled, it causes irreversible damage to tissue inside the lung, turning into scar tissue. With the lung tissues damaged, the lungs’ ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body is permanently reduced. This can lead to lifelong physical limitations, becoming ill with respiratory conditions easier, and even potentially having to require oxygen at some point.

Combatting the Cigarette

Tobacco use can lead to a range of diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke, stomach ulcers, and chest and lung illnesses. The good news is that the body starts repairing itself as soon as the person stops smoking.

The vast majority of people nowadays are well aware of the dangers of smoking; yet it is hard to stop. Why? Because, first and foremost, it is an addiction. Quitting can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as sleeping problems, irritability, hunger, and restlessness.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) provides small, measured doses of nicotine into the bloodstream without the harmful chemicals found in a cigarette. NRT includes patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, and inhalers. They are safe to use but may cause mild side effects, which usually do not last for long. These products are available in pharmacies and some supermarkets without a prescription from a doctor.


Smoking and vaping are but the two sides of the same coin; one might look healthier, but both are dangerous. Health is a person’s most valuable treasure; to risk tarnishing, let alone losing it altogether, should be something everyone avoids at all cost. Say no to tobacco and all related practices today and every day.



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