Dr Frank Ashall on the horrors of tobacco

This blog is all about one of the most devastating plagues that Humanity has endured. I call it, “The Great Tobacco Plague.”

Tobacco infiltrates our lives and society in ways we often tend to ignore. Just today I walked a mile or so on my way to work and I counted 346 cigarette “ends,” 5 empty cigarette packs and 2 people smoking. When I remember my childhood, often I think of the relatives, neighbors and friends who died from a smoking-related disease, or of the cigarette smoke I frequently had no choice but to endure, for example while sitting in a smoking carriage on a train, or while socialising with my friends in an otherwise pleasant English pub.

I’m Dr Frank Ashall. I have a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Oxford University, UK, a doctorate in Biochemistry and Physiology from Oxford University, UK, and a medical degree from the USA. I ran a biochemical research team before I went to medical school and I practised Internal Medicine as a physician for 11 years. More recently, I taught medical and biochemistry students in an Ethiopian medical school.

As a child in the UK, I encountered disease and death daily in my village. The adult smoking rate in the UK then was almost 50%. Emphysema, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer were common then among my family members, friends and neighbours.

As a doctor in the USA, I had my share of patients who suffered horrendously from smoking-related diseases, and as a human being I have had more than enough encounters with the disgrace, dangers and filth of cigarettes.

Even recently, as a professor in Ethiopia, I continued to see the devastation of tobacco: how developing countries are targets of greedy tobacco company marketing and often illegal advertising, and even how some governments make deals with tobacco companies that will harm the health of their own citizens. I saw how very young children sell cigarettes on the streets and how smoking is extremely common among homeless street children.

This blog is a collection of those experiences, a compilation that shows just how much tobacco pervades our lives, how often take it for granted, and how it somehow, unbelievably, manages to thrive as a product that is legally and blatantly produced, marketed and advertised by an unethical and unscrupulous tobacco industry that has managed to remain one of the biggest money-making organisations on the planet, at the cost, of course, of the health and lives of tens of millions of human beings.

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