Tobacco products harm the health of consumers while smoking, chewing, snuffing or vaping. But the tobacco plant is also poisonous and endangers the health of farmers growing it.
Lung, heart and circulation
Each year, 5.7 trillion cigarettes are produced. This is more than 750 cigarettes for each human being in the world. Worldwide 6 million people die each year due to tobacco consumption, including 600,000 deaths due to secondhand smoke. This product kills half of its users when used as intended. As a result, 120,000 people die each year in Germany and on top of it more than 3,000 people die from secondhand smoke.
Tobacco smoke containts 4,800 particular compounds, among them poisons like carbon monoxide or hydrongen cyanide. Smoking generates about 90 carcinogens.
Smoking is the leading risk factor for non communicable diseases: cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer, and diabetes.
Smoking causes 80 % of lung cancer cases and increases the likelihood to develop other types of cancer like throat and oesophageal cancer. Even for organs that are not directly encountering smoke the risk to develop cancer rises (e.g. leukaemia, pancreatic and cervical cancer).
Additionally, the risk to develop cardiovascular diseases and strokes is for smokers twice as high as for non-smokers. Every cigarette even increases the risk to develop diabetes.
Furthermore, smoking leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD destroys the pulmonary alveoli and constricts the respiratory system. The disease is incurable and leads to death by asphyxiation.
For teenage and young smokers, the nicotine contained in cigarettes is dangerous for the maturation of their brains. Being irritable, sluggish, uneasy or anxious are signs of their fast addiction.
Tobacco is also sickening farmers. The plant contains the neurotoxic poison nicotine in its fresh green leaves which can be absorbed through the skin particularly in wet conditions (morning dew, rain, sweat). This may result in an acute nicotine poisoning known as Green Tobacco Sickness. It leads to dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and weak muscles.
Without protection measures workers can get into contact with up to 54mg nicotine per day – as much nicotine as is contained in 50 cigarettes.
Very often, farmers and workers do not have enough resources to buy protection gear. Additionally, they have to calculate the risk of nicotine poisoning against the risk of overheating. Particularly the children on the fields have an increased risk of suffering from life threatening heat strokes and dehydration.
Every year more than 6 million people die due to tobacco use.