Smoking is undeniably the most prevalent cause of preventable deaths today. In fact, it has been recorded to kill more people compared to AIDS, alcohol abuse, drug overdose, accidents, suicides, and murders.
While the harmful effects of smoking are obvious after too many scientific studies conducted in the past few decades, this knowledge is fairly constricted to the living upper peti-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie classes. People within the lower income strata, agricultural workers among them, are often denied of such information, making them more vulnerable to the hazards of smoking tobacco cigarettes.There is no need to explain further how smoking causes different deadly diseases such as tuberculosis, lung cancer, pneumonia, heart illnesses, liver diseases, and many more. Whether first hand, second hand, or third hand, tobacco smoke residue consists of highly toxic substances, that, when inhaled, are powerful enough to make anyone sick as a dog.
For those in the agricultural sector whom we have always though had fresher air than urban people, the effects of smoking are increased by factors that are natural to their work and the environment.
Farmers, semi-manufacturing/semi-farming workers, landscapers and gardeners, all considered to be a part of the agriculture sector, work under less protection and safety standards compared to those who work in offices and manufacturing companies.
They stay under the heat of the sun, breathe in tiny particles of dust, both organic and inorganic, and are exposed to fumes and chemicals from harmful pesticides. Add to that the physically exhausting nature of their work, and farmers are top candidates for respiratory and cardiovascular-related diseases. Imagine how smoking can bring much more danger to their health in this context.
Statistics: Smoking Population in the Agriculture Sector
According to studies, people who work in other sectors smoke more compared to farmers. The rate of male and female farmers who do not smoke, or have never even tried smoking, is higher compared to those who work in urban areas.
Then again, the lack of proper health care services in rural areas amplifies the effects of smoking among those who do and those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Mortality rate that is related to smoking is higher among farmers and is continuously rising to present.
Tobacco Production: Exposure Risks
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated to see a billion deaths within the 21st century due to tobacco. 80% of the estimated count belongs to the lower and middle income countries where most tobacco are now being produced, processed, and manufactured into cigarettes.
In the 16th century, tobacco was introduced in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Prior to that period when European countries began exporting and importing their products, the agricultural production of different types of tobacco crops was mainly done on their land. They wanted to provide for the local needs of European tobacco companies, which sold their products in their markets.
However, with different laws that were imposed vis-à-vis the decrease in tobacco cigarette demand in their countries, these huge tobacco companies began expanding their production and marketing. Later on, they focused on doing both in Africa, Asia, and other middle and lower income countries.
It is in these countries today that tobacco production posts danger among farm workers who are directly exposed to nicotine and other toxic substances from pesticides. Children are amongst those who are mostly affected by acute nicotine poisoning when in direct contact with the leaves upon taking care of flowers and harvesting mature tobacco plants.
Smokers develop a tolerance for nicotine as they have a regular intake of the substance. Nevertheless, their tolerance drops when they come in direct contact with the material. They are then more susceptible to bronchitis, occupational asthma, and other illnesses that are triggered by organic dust such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, organic dust toxic syndrome, and the like.
In the long run, the overall health of tobacco farmers dwindles, without the necessary support from their employers, and even state tobacco farm administrators. This is all for the production of even more dangerous products that come in the form of tobacco cigarettes.
Smoking: Does It Have Effects on Plants?
Cigarette smoking produces 4000 chemical-strong clouds of smoke that include the most harmful carcinogens. Although a significant amount enters your lungs as you take a puff, a lot of these chemicals are expelled to the environment. Second-hand smoke affects those who breath around you. They, too, are at risk of developing smoking-related diseases.
Third-hand smoke is when these chemicals cling on to your clothes, your body, the curtains, and practically anything that surrounds you. They are transported from where you smoked to other places and released into the air as you move.
Plants are subject to deterioration due to second and third smoke, as well. They do not breathe in the chemicals, like humans and animals, but plants absorb carbon dioxide through their stomata, the small pores in their leaves. They process the carbon dioxide to become oxygen and released again in the air.
These living things also live by processing nutrients through the use of light. This is called photosynthesis. In general, if their leaves are covered with the chemicals released by smoking, plants get less sunlight, and, therefore, absorb fewer nutrients for full and healthy growth. They are not able to transform the optimum amount of carbon dioxide into oxygen if their leaves are layered with cigarette smoke byproducts.
Without the right amount of nutrients, and with harmful chemicals on their leaves, plants become weak, discolored, and unable to produce as much as we expect them. Yields will drop, and the whole economy is affected.
The Importance of Agriculture and the Need to End Smoking
It is never too late to prevent these unwanted circumstances. The effects of smoking on agriculture, the economy, the people who work on farms, and the whole ecosystem may not be felt right away, but it will take its toll.
A good informational drive and health support system from local governments will greatly contribute to ending the hazards of smoking to the agricultural sector. As for those who want to quit the deed, the whole community should encourage the formation of support groups, and the use of aids such as nicotine replacements.