What can be done to stop people smoking?

Everyone knows that smoking kills, yet still people do it.  The World Health Organisation estimates there are one billion people across the planet who smoke, and predicts that double this number will be smoking in 12 years’ time when the toxic chemicals of tobacco will be killing over 10 million people annually. Vientiane Times attended a seminar on tobacco control recently to seek out professional opinion on what can be done to control this serious health issue.

Attendees at the tobacco control seminar in Vientiane last week.

Ms Chanthanwin Lerdthavone, an official with Vientiane Television: The responsibility belongs to parents to set a good example by not smoking at home, and to teach their children about the very harmful effects of cigarettes. But tackling the problem of smoking will take government and industry action too. The government could raise the legal age of smoking to 18 and make it illegal for anyone younger to buy tobacco products.  That would help a lot.  While parents can closely monitor their children, governments can police the trade of illegal tobacco products and regulate the price of legally sold tobacco through taxes. Overseas examples have shown that high tobacco prices reduce smoking rates and a price rise here would likely help too.

Ms Khampey Bouaxaythong, an official with the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism: I have an uncle whose lip is continually black because of his smoking.  He has continual health problems.  At the moment it is pneumonia.  He has been in and out of hospital many times. I’ve asked him to stop but he told me he can’t because he misses cigarettes too much when he doesn’t have them.  Nicotine addiction is a terrible thing.  My uncle has spent a lot of money on cigarettes in his life, but I wonder, if they’d cost more, whether he may have decided to stop smoking when he was younger. Nobody has been able to convince my uncle to stop smoking just by talking to him.  Maybe a big hit to his wallet could be more convincing? The education of young people in school about the terrible consequences of cigarettes would be beneficial too.
 
Ms Thipeousa Luangamath, a journalist in Vientiane: I would like to tell everyone who smokes to stop doing it right now. If you don’t buy cigarettes you save money to spend on nice things for your family, especially your wife.  You’ll also be healthier and you won’t be harmful to the people that you smoke around.  These people are your family, friends and colleagues. To me, the issue of smoking is a matter of simple economics. If there is no demand for cigarettes, there will be nobody supplying them. Stop smoking. While I know government regulation and intervention on the issue is necessary, I also know that as more people stop using tobacco the less profitable tobacco companies become. As demand declines, so does supply.  As supply slows, so will demand. Stop smoking!

Mr Khamsuan Chanthalath, an official from Vientiane: I finally managed to give up smoking when I realised there was absolutely no benefit in it. It took me three attempts before I was successful.   I first started smoking when I was hanging out with my friends and it was my friends who made quitting difficult for me. Actually, my first two failed attempts at smoking occurred because I lacked the willpower to say no to some really good friends when they offered me cigarettes. This last attempt, though, I avoided each of my smoking friends for three months altogether.  This was until I felt like I had the strength to say ‘no’ to them if they were to offer me a cigarette again.  Now I can be around my friends while they smoke and I don’t feel tempted. It’s my opinion that everyone who wants to stop smoking has to make an effort to avoid people who smoke too, especially for the first few months.  Quitting is hard, and people who are serious about it will make a conscious decision to avoid people and places that may deprive them of the willpower to say no.  Ultimately, I believe it is up to each individual to make the decision to stop smoking. No one else can do it for you.  To all the smokers out there, I say stop doing it right now – you’ll feel happier, healthier and all the better for it. 

By Phouthong Sivongsa
(Latest Update November 20, 2018)


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