Smoking: How Does Costa Rica Compare To the Rest of the World

A very dangerous bad habit that must continue to be discouraged

“Tobacco doesn’t just cause cancer, it ruptures hearts,” stated the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom; This official made the warning seeking to raise awareness about the relationship between this habit and the appearance of cardiovascular diseases.

“Most people know that tobacco use causes lung cancer, but many people are not aware that tobacco also causes heart disease and heart attacks, which are the main cause of death in the world”.

In our country…

In Costa Rica, three people die every day from conditions related to tobacco consumption, according to data from the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), mainly related to chronic respiratory diseases; cardiovascular diseases and neoplasms, among which lung, bronchial, laryngeal and stomach cancers stand out.

The costs of these conditions represent about 3% of the total burden of illnesses that attend the medical centers of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, while the investment to treat these diseases is around 6% of the total expenditure of public health institutions.

The Ministry of Health echoed the call made by the head of the WHO, and continues the fight against tobacco under the slogan “Tobacco breaks hearts choose health, not tobacco.” The Minister, Giselle Amador, asked the Costa Rican population to “value their health, and the health of those around them since cigarette smoke affects not only the smoker but also those who are exposed to secondhand smoke “.

Amador also pointed out that one of the ways to protect ourselves from the consequences of smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke is the creation of “tobacco-free” recreational places in communities where families can enjoy themselves, sharing different activities without any danger of smoke contamination.

It is estimated that in the country, at least 300,000 Costa Ricans are smokers. Each of them consumes about 13 cigarettes a day and, to maintain this vice, they must spend, on average,  ¢ 19,000 per month. Some of the conclusions of the World Survey on Smoking in Adults (GATS), carried out in 2017, in which Costa Rica participated, showed that men and women do not smoke equally: there are three male smokers to every female. Age behavior also varies.

The group with more smokers is between 45 and 64 years old since 10.4% of the population located in this age range smokes. On the other hand, among people aged 25 to 34, consumption is 9.8% and among people from 15 to 24 years old reaches 7.2%. There are differences between rural and urban areas. In the former, 7.1% of the population is a smoker, against 9.6% in the latter.

In comparison to other nations…

If we compare ourselves with other nations, the figures are not so daunting. Statistical analysis showed that the Costa Rican population is one of those with fewer smokers (8.9%). In other Latin American countries (except Panama), the figures are higher than 10%. The people who participated in this survey accepted that they know the damage caused by tobacco consumption to their health.

For example, 97.8% know of serious illnesses related to this vice and 95.8% understand how dangerous passive smoking is (inhaling the smoke of others’ cigarettes). In the survey, 95% of those who suffer from passive smoking said they were exposed to cigarette smoke in the home; 93.7% in their workplace; 92% in restaurants, and 77% in bars. The difficulty in quitting smoking is one of the factors. The survey explains that seven out of 10 smokers, approximately, have tried to quit smoking, but only half (56.7%) have succeeded. Has it improved concerning other years? This is a valid question. However, answers are lacking, as this is the first study carried out in the country with a methodology approved by the world health authorities and, therefore, cannot be compared with other research.

SOURCEYesenia Mujica
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