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Opinion

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Quit smoking for longevity

SMOKERS are under the fallacy that if they can still run and jump after puffing away for so many years, then their health is not likely to deteriorate.

But what does science have to say on the state of health of ­smokers? Professor Martin Tobin and Professor Ian Hall of University of Leicester and University of Nottingham respectively collaborated with UK Biobank to probe this enigma. UK Biobank is a renowned and leading authority on genetic engineering.

Approximately 50,000 volunteers comprising smokers and non-smokers participated in the name of science by submitting their saliva, hair and other samples. Researchers found variations in genes especially in Chromosome 17.

Differences in the number of copies of duplicated sequence on KANSC 1 gene in the lungs of ­smokers and non-smokers were detected. Researchers concluded that good genes appear to have contri­buted to lung development and protect the lungs of damage caused by smoking in smokers.

Nevertheless, numerous lung foundations around the world warn and caution smokers against betting on lucky genes to protect them from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

According to them, these genes may not insulate them against heart disease, stroke, mouth cancer and others.

Health is not a rolling dice or blackjack that we all can bet on. I couldn’t agree more. I saw my uncle pass away from lung cancer in his early 40s after two decades of puffing away.

Another relative of mine died from the same health disorder while in his 60s after lighting up for four decades.

We have all heard of second­hand smoke. What about third-hand smoke? Third-hand smoke is residual or leftover particles which contain nicotine, arsenic, lead, cyanide and other chemicals that clings to clothing, curtains, carpet, walls and surfaces after someone has smoked in that area.

Let’s see how it affects other ­living organisms. Manuela Martins, Professor of Cell Biology in University of California, exposed mice to curtains, upholstery and carpets stained with third-hand smoke in a laboratory test for six months. Brain, liver and blood samples of the mice were taken at intervals.

During the first month, researchers found a 50% increment in inflammatory molecules in the blood of the mice. In the ­second month, there was an increase in cell damage in the liver and brain. In the fourth month, the cortisol level of the mice increased by 45%. This showed a weakened immune system.

Dr Humberto Choi, pulmonologist from Cleveland Clinic, reported that in a study in 2010 with National Academy of Science in the US, it was found that third-hand smoke damages and breaks DNA. Nicotine is also capable of reacting with nitrous acid in the air and forms nitrosamine compounds which are harmful. Children are most at risk as they frequently touch objects and put their hands into their mouth.

There’s another problem with third-hand smoke stains. They are not easily washed away with industrial cleaners. We can’t ­vacuum them. The stains may stay for weeks and months. Hence, it’s best to ban smoking in working areas and public places.

Where there’s a will, a way is always available and accessible. There’s a Japanese cultural practice called “ikigai” which contributes to Japanese longevity and happiness. “Ikigai” consists of two words joined together. “Iki” means live. “Gai” means reason, worth or purpose. “Ikigai” is loosely translated as the reason or purpose for living. Think of “ikigai” in terms of health and wellness.

Smoking can bring a sense of feeling useless. One has to rely on it all the time. Smoking also brings a sense of uncertainty as smokers can die from it. What would be the “ikigai” that can lead us to new path of longevity and blissfulness? What if we make quitting a mission and vocation? The road to perdition just changed course.

Dan Buettner, author and researcher, travels around the globe looking for places where ­longevity reigns. He found some places and called them Blue Zones. He went on to research further and found these inhabitants enjoy ­longevity as a result of practising good living habits.

One of these places is Okinawa Island, where one can find the most centenarians in the world. Yes, Okinawans practise “ikigai”.

Knowledge is not power. Taking action is. Making a decision is the game changer in one’s life. So broadcast that to the whole world. Tell the world you will quit smoking in six months’ time. Appoint your league of observers. All will be your witness to the pledge.

One will definitely stick to it as no one wants to be branded a hypo­crite. The tools are readily available at pharmacies in the form of nicotine replacement ­therapy products. Never under­estimate the nicotine patch, gum, lozenges and inhalers. These things can work wonders.

When one sees things in a shallow manner, one may only be able to see 45 degrees. Get the panora­mic of the hazards of smoking. We share this planet with others.

One’s smoking habit is harmful to others. We will be bidding “Auld Lang Syne” to 2017 soon. If one is a smoker, don’t just wish “Happy New Year” to others. Rephrase it to “Happy New Year and I will quit smoking this year”.

What a wonderful new year ­resolution. Make sure you are not saying it in front of the mirror, all alone. Ensure there are witnesses to this pledge.

EDWARD WONG

Menglembu