- For years, the industry fought back the facts on the negative impacts of cigarette on health of the people who smoked and in particular in connection to lung cancer. They resisted mainly because accepting this fact meant the multi-million dollar industry would face collapse, leading to loss of thousands of jobs.
One of the most important and memorable highlight of the tobacco indutry in the 1960s was the report of the US general surgeon. The report for the first time rested the case on the argument surrounding the suspected association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
For years, the industry fought back the facts on the negative impacts of cigarette on health of the people who smoked and in particular in connection to lung cancer. They resisted mainly because accepting this fact meant the multi-million dollar industry would face collapse, leading to loss of thousands of jobs.
Indeed the following years saw a decline in smoking rates that was in turn reflected later in the reduction of a number of the lung cases. For example in men, lung cancer deaths have reduced by 34 per cent from their peak in 1990.
The report had triggered a wave of nationwide campaigns on smoking prevention that in turn paved way to new policies to regulate smoking.In addition the proponents of banning cigarette smoking were more eager to continue with their now “legitimised’’ fight.
What lessons do we learn from this?
There are many other industries that are at odds with our desires for a good health.
In the modern era, beverage manufacturers of sugary drinks have instigated a worldwide debate on the health consequences. Research shows that sugary drinks are one of the major determinants of obesity and diabetes.
Obesity is on the rise today with estimates of about one third of US citizens being victims and it has been classified as a disease by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the American Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
In Tanzania, we face a similar dilemma from many industries such as breweries, food and cigaratte companies, to mention few. All these have either activities or products that have been associated with poor health and in particular cancer.
The non-communicable diseases are on the rise and they may soon become the number one killer if ignored. Though industries are very much important in driving the economy of our country, we must be smart enough to accommodate them in a way that they don’t become a burden on our health. They do create jobs and provide a good tax-handle for our governemnts but at what cost? Is it worth it? Obesity is not infectious but we are increasingly becoming westernised, aiding to change the landscape of these non-comunicable diseases like cancer.
There is a need to create policies good enough to regulate them and enforce them to protect the masses. It’s not going to be easy because these are giants and hence the fight would seem like the biblical battle of Goliatha and David. But I believe it’s possible to reach a consensus.
I would like to see Tanzania prospering in all sectors as we head towards middle income ecomony driven by increased industrialisation.
I pray we would do it smarter than those before us. We can learn from our friends from Europe and US so that we have a healthier process of industrialisation ensuring a possibilty of a healthy rich nation that is cancer free.