Even though it will take years before we see the positive effects of the smoking ban in Malaysia, heavy smokers are encouraged to get checked to avoid future chronic lung disease. Eena Houzyama clears the air on this sensitive issue with and expert.
- Expert, Dr. Chua Keong Tiong, Consultant Physician and Respiratory Physician Subang Jaya Medical Centre shares his views on this.
Q Since the government has enforced the smoking ban, in what duration can you see health changes to the public?
“This plan of tobacco control by the government will not show an immediate effect. The effect comes later, in at least 10 years to be realistic. When the cigarette ban becomes successful, you will see the number of smokers start to drop dramatically. But the reduction of cases of lung cancer, lung infection, and heart attacks will not happen overnight. The benefit of the smoking ban by the government will definitely have a positive effect to the population but it will take time. On the topic of smoking ban by governments, one of the most successful countries that we always quote is Australia. Australia is one of the very few countries in the world to have a very successful tobacco control program. It is the first country to show a reduction in the number of smokers. Although it takes years and years of effort, I can assure you that they are now reaping the benefits of the program. We can now recognize that their smoking related diseases are on the decline. ”
Q Is lung cancer or lung disease always related to smoking?
“The majority cases of lung cancer are related to smoking, but not all. We do recognize that there are non-smokers, who have a healthy lifestyle, eat healthily, and exercise regularly but end up having lung cancer too. The development of lung cancer is multi-factorial; there can be many reasons that come together. Firstly, it can be genetic. So some people are genetically predisposed to getting it. And there are some people whose genes are so strong that no matter what they do, they will not get it. Some families have cases of scattered cancer, which means that their family gene is predisposed to getting it. Secondly, it is the interaction between your genes and environment. Smoking is a carcinogen and it promotes the formation of cancer. We also know that alcohol also leads to certain types of cancer, like liver cancer. Another is radiation. If someone lives near an area that is highly exposed to radiation, it emits a particle called radon, which leads to a higher risk of them getting lung cancer. Asbestos is also well recognized to cause lung cancer. It is commonly used in roof building, and it is a very good heat insulator. Charcoal and wood fumes can also cause lung cancer. People living in rural areas commonly burn wood and charcoal for cooking with poor ventilation. So there are many other things in our environment that could predispose someone to lung cancer, even though they don’t smoke. Some diseases that cause the scarring of the lung, such as TB can cause lung cancer to arise from it, even if they don’t smoke. There are also many more non-smoking related lung diseases like lung fibrosis, called extrinsic allergic alveolitis. For example, bird fanciers lung can happen to people who keep birds as pets. When they inhale a bird’s excretion, it causes lung fibrosis, which is the hardening of the lung. When your lung is abnormal, the risk of lung cancer increases. COPD is definitely associated with lung cancer, and it is caused by smoking. We also now recognize that there is a rise in a population of young, healthy, females aged 30-40 are prone to get lung cancer, without any exposure to radiation or harmful substances. There is no explanation to why this is happening, but researchers are working on it. But having said all this, one should not overlook the dangers of smoking and the damage it can cause to your lungs.”