Tobacco (20) Do people understand the health, socio-economic and environmental harms of using tobacco products? (4)

27 February, 2023

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I have never consumed tobacco and I think it is because I had little experiences with my peers to experience the peer pressure. Moreover, my parents were strongly against it. I know many of my mates who used to smoke quite a lot. Boys and girls alike. It was very fashionable when I was in secondary school around the 2000's.

My grandmother used to smoke tobacco in her pipe. I can recall how skillful she was about it ; removing the tobacco, a fine black powder in a well wrapped plastic paper which she took either from her purse or her dress. She will then Insert the powder in the hole and take fire from the fire side to ignite the combustion of tobacco. Inhaling and puffing thick smoke continuously until the red burning tobacco in her pipe got consumed. She also would sniff the powdered tobacco when she did not smoke it. It is great she completely stopped smoking tobacco after she feel sick and was asked by the physician she should stop and encouraged to do so also by my dad. I remember the strong smell her hut used to have and the color of her hands and fingers. My grandma is 96 years and has not smoked for more than 30 years now.

With respect to smoking and young people. There is something which has become more prominent in my context. The "open smoking" of young boys and women. When I was in secondary school my peers would smoke only in our youth events (parties, birth days etc) and will make sure adults are not aware. Today, things are different. it is not uncommon to see adolescent boys smoking as they walk in the streets. Youths and women smoke more and more and in public places.

I do not know if they had or have any idea of the health impacts of smoking. I myself, It is only when I engaged into health and biological studies that I clearly understood how detrimental smoking was. Parting from parental restrictions to really understand how and why smoking is harmful.

If active smoking is what is drawing lots of attention in my country passive smoking is not receiving the attention it deserves.

Each year during World no tobacco day the ministry of public health does some sensitization activities but there is no evidence to know if their intervention has been working or not. Apart from world no tobacco day I don't remember if there are other sensitisation activities about tobacco.

We need to talk about how tobacco is affecting us. I think if more non-smokers were sensitive to the impact of tobacco on (their) health even smokers will reconsider this noxious behaviour on their health. As many smokers still smoke freely publicly in taxis, bars, restaurants and other public places. I wonder if smokers understand the impact on non-smokers and if non-smokers question the act?

That is why I think this discussions on the health, socioeconomic and environmental impacts of tobacco product is very important for public health.

Best regards,

Didier Demassosso

HIFA profile: Didier Demassosso is a mental health practitioner, Consultant (WHO , MoPH Cameroon...), Mental health advocate , Youth advocate with 10 years experience in mental health development in Cameroon. He is also a health communicator and educationist. HIFA Country Representative For Cameroon/ HIFA Country Representative of the year 2014 / Regional Coordinator for Africa. He also currently volunteers for the Mental Health Innovation Network Africa as Knowledge Exchange Assistant.

Email: didier.demassosso AT