Experts warn of health risks, high costs of tobacco consumption in Honduras

Tegucigalpa, May 31 (EFE).- More than 500 people die per year of tobacco-related illnesses in Honduras, a poor Central American country that bears hefty costs in treating pathologies caused by cigarette smoking, experts told Efe on Wednesday.

That fatality figure was provided by the head of the Pneumology Department at Honduras’ National Cardiopulmonary Institute, Suyapa Sosa, who spoke to Spain’s international news agency on World No Tobacco Day.

She warned about increased consumption of e-cigarettes and vaporizers, particularly among young people, saying tobacco companies are misleading consumers by advertising those products as innocuous because they do not contain tobacco.

E-cigarettes “do not have the same amount of tobacco as a cigarette, but they do have nicotine, and nicotine is what causes the addiction,” said the expert, who added that these vaping devices contain carcinogens (chemicals known to cause cancer), including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde.

Those products have pleasant tastes and aromas that mask the damage caused by nicotine, but they are just as harmful as cigarettes, said Sosa, who warned that over the next decade e-cigs will have as big of a health impact as their traditional counterparts.

The strides made by Big Tobacco in marketing these new products also is cause for concern among doctors because of a shortage of medicine in hospitals to treat smoking-related illnesses, said Sosa, who also is president of the National Cardiopulmonary Institute’s Medical Association in Tegucigalpa.

Tobacco “produces three types of cancer,” as well as heart disease and sterility in men and women, according to the expert, who said many young people in Honduras “start smoking at age eight.”

The Central American country spends more than 1.2 billion lempiras ($48.8 million) on treating patients with illnesses linked to tobacco consumption, according to official figures.

The state spends roughly $2,500 to diagnose a patient with lung cancer, Sosa said, adding that the cost nearly triples to around $7,000 if that person must undergo surgery.

She therefore urged people not to smoke, saying “we all must be involved in some way in this struggle so tobacco doesn’t win the battle.”

For her part, the director of the Honduran Institute for Prevention of Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and Drug dependency (Ihadfa), Fedra Thiebaud, told Efe that around 60 percent of the population in Honduras, a country home to 9.7 million inhabitants, consumes some form of tobacco product.

She also echoed Sosa’s remarks, calling on people to stay away from tobacco to bring down the number of smoking-related illnesses and the costs incurred by the government in treating patients suffering from those diseases. EFE


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