By Chris Zumani Zimba
Growing up in the village in the 1990s, Jonathan Lungu was one of my closest friends, a darling childhood folk I spent much of my time with at Mnoro Basic School in Chief Kapatamoyo, Chipata district. As good friends, I was his mentor in terms of public speaking-debate, studies, flirting girls, drama performances and dances. On his side, he tutored me at football, dress code, sometimes beer drinking and smoking as well as loving ‘Jah music’-reggae. But before long, I fortunately voluntarily stopped both alcohol drinking and smoking as both my parents were not into it and I just never enjoyed either the smoke or liquor. By the way, this account was during my upper primary school and junior secondary life; meaning I was pretty young, an adolescent and a minor.
After disappearing from Chipata for more than 6 years hiding in Lusaka for my senior secondary school and university studies, I visited my village in 2005 and really wanted to meet my childhood friends, Jonathan Lungu topped the list. I was told he was dead and I never bothered to know the cause of death. This year in August, I met his sister and we chatted. “Yes, your dear friend is no more. He died very young and only wished he had stopped smoking like you. His lungs and kidneys were damaged beyond life and we lost him just like that”, his sister narrated to me in tears. I was so traumatized and depressed to be honest especially that I was in Chipata this time around particularly undertaking a study on the profitability of tobacco farming in Zambia. “This is so evil and wicked”, I thought and whispered to myself.
Although I quit smoking at early age out of innocence, the cause of death for my close childhood friend so brilliant and gifted in Jonathan Lungu now remains one of a painful reality and traumatic horrors of life today. Hence, in loving memory of my friend in JL, I dedicate this short piece to him and every school going child in Africa as I can only say MHSRIP.
Yes, “THE WICKED SAMARITANS” is what I choose to now call all tobacco farmers and manufacturers born from the account of Jonathan Lungu’s cause of death as well as many other reasons as you shall see as you read. Generally, most tobacco farmers even here in Africa and all cigarette manufacturers across the world are pretty aware that smoking is a guaranteed path to Slow Self-Suicide but they won’t say it or will never tell you so because it is their “copper leaf”.
The growers and manufacturers of the “Copper Leaf” which is certainly the “Evil Leaf of Death” i.e. “THE WICKED SAMARITANS” mainly praise their tobacco and mislead us from different economic benefits and financial perspectives such as:
- Agriculture accounted for 45% in 1991 and 31% in 2013 of global employment respectively, Sub-Sahara Africa remained higher in terms of a total share of employment creation in this sector with 66% in and 62% during the same periods of which tobacco has a big share too1.
- Tobacco is a huge economic pillar and GDP determinant for many SADC and African states such as Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique or Uganda as the tobacco value chain employ more than 1,800,000 in Malawi, more than 140,000 in Mozambique, 1,450,000 in Tanzania, between 6800 in 2000 – to more than 500,000 in Zambia as well as between more than 56,900 in 2011 to more than 2,000,000 in 2017 in Zimbabwe2; and
- The “Copper leaf” cash crop is 7 times more profitable per hectare compared to maize and is 14 times more profitable per hectare than cotton3.
Such justifications are daily sweet proverbs and smoked tales one will always hear from “THE WICKED SAMARITANS” on why Africa and the world must continue to grow and eat the “Evil Leaf of death”.
But I chose to bring the good news to you; the truth of life and what will protect and preserve you against smoking. Most Africans especially children and the youth are at risk of fast death both today and tomorrow due to the ignorance about the dangers of smoking my childhood friend, Jonathan Lungu died with. Hence, to prevent you from committing slow suicide by helping you to decide quitting the smoke or avoid wrongly engaging in a lifestyle of smoking, here are the scientific facts of how smoking affects your body and why it just kills:
- Smoking increases your risk of having a stroke by at least 50%, which can cause brain damage and death. And, by smoking, you double your risk of dying from a stroke;
- Smoking causes 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
- Smoking damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing the risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease (damaged blood vessels) and cerebrovascular disease (damaged arteries that supply blood to your brain);
- Smokers have an increased chance of getting stomach cancer or ulcers as well as kidney cancer than non-smokers;
- -Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to your skin. This means that if you smoke, your skin ages more quickly and looks grey and dull. The toxins in your body also cause cellulite;
- More than 93% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancer in part of the throat) are caused by smoking. Smoking causes unattractive problems such as bad breath and stained teeth, and can also cause gum disease and damage your sense of taste;
- Smoking can cause male impotence, as it damages the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. It can also damage sperm, reduce sperm count and cause testicular cancer;
- –When you smoke, the poisons from the tar in your cigarettes enter your blood. This affects blood circulation by increasing the chance of your arteries narrowing and clots forming, which can cause a heart attack or stroke; and
- Smoking can cause your bones to become weak and brittle. Women need to be especially careful as they are more likely to suffer from brittle bones (osteoporosis) than non-smokers4.
What you must know is that, the World Health Organization (WHO) has consistently been warning that most of NCDs such as diabetes, cancer, respiratory and heart diseases could be prevented by reducing tobacco and alcohol use, eating a healthier diet and exercising more because, 6 million people die from tobacco use and 2.5 million from harmful use of alcohol each year worldwide5. This information is both crucial and lifesaving especially if timely taken to many ignorant and innocent African children and youth.
In conclusion, I want to bring your attention to the latest Key summary facts on smoking as published by WHO on 9th March, 2018 entitled “Leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment”.
“The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 7 million people a year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Around 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest. Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health cSare and hinder economic development”6.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher and Consultant. Besides being the CEO and Managing Consultant at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles.
- ILO, (2017:1) “Agriculture Plantations and other rural Sectors”, accessed from http://www.ilo.org/global/industries-and-sectors/agriculture-plantations-other-rural-sectors/lang–en/index.htm, Retrieved on 12/10/2017
- Daily Mail, (2018:1) “Economics vs health: Experts bash tobacco industry”, accessed from https://www.daily-mail.co.zm/economics-vs-health-experts-bash-tobacco-industry/, Retrieved 19/03/2018
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (2017:1) “Tobacco Control and Tobacco Farming in African Countries”, accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4412848/, Retrieved 12/11/2017
- Smoke Free (2018:1), “How smoking affects your body”, accessed from https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/why-quit/smoking-health-problems, Retrieved 20/11/2018; NCBI (2018), “Tobacco (Electronic cigarette): An evil in many faces”, accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4456732/ Retrieved 04/12/2018
- Drug Free (2018:1), “WHO Report Smoking and drinking cause of millions of death worldwide”, accessed from https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/who-report-smoking-and-drinking-cause-millions-of-deaths-worldwide/ , Retrieved on 10/01/2018
- WHO (2018:1)“Tobacco-Key Facts” accessed from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco retrieved 02/12/2018