Sunday, September 22

Change your ways for the sake of health

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KUALA LUMPUR: “Change your ways!” This is the mantra for consumers in 2010.Without the change in attitude, efforts and campaign undertaken by the government or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to educate consumers serves no purpose.

Moreover, consumers will only end up wasting their money and put their lives in jeopardy.

In changing consumer attitude, it is wise to reflect on some of the campaigns including the ‘Tak Nak’ campaign to eradicate smoking and the move by the government to increase the retail price of sugar.

The campaign on smokers is to remind them constantly that smoking not only wastes money but also endangers their health and the health of those around them.

Therefore, smokers in the nation should view positively the government’s decision to set a minimum price of RM6.40  for  a 20-stick cigarette pack effective Jan 1, 2010.

Malaysians may well be aware of the gory images on the effects of smoking flashed on billboards, posters and the cigarette packs.

Since the launch of the campaign in 2009, Malaysians have been exposed to the dangers of smoking and the danger caused by secondhand smoke.

Smokers should also be aware of the dangerous content in the cigarette itself.

The cigarette is said to contain about 4,000 elements with at least 200 of them hazardous to human health.

The dangerous components in cigarettes are tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide.

The three impair the lungs and blood circulation! In fact the World Health Organisation (WHO) had clearly stated the dangers of smoking through its bulletin, World Health, and the bulletin is incorporated at the Health Ministry’s website.

The bulletin states that the nicotine found in tobacco unleashes chemical reaction similar to heroin and cocaine.

The ministry’s website also states that smoking can kill up to 1 billion people in the 21st century.

It is estimated that there are about 1.15 billion smokers all over the world with more than 80 per cent of them living in nations with low and medium income.

The website also quoted WHO as saying that tobacco is among the leading cause of deaths worldwide.

WHO estimated that approximately 100 million people will die due to complications caused by tobacco in the 20th century.

Back in Malaysia, smokers represent almost half of the male population and each day about 45 to 50 teenagers under 18 pick up the habit.

About 30 per cent of the boys between 12 and 18 years smoke and the number of teenage girls picking up the habit has increased.

According to the ministry, health problems related to smoking including lung cancer has increased by 17 per cent.

The same destructive habit has contributed to one million coronary cases.

Speak to any cardiologist, among the healthy lifestyle that they would suggest is to keep away from cigarettes.

Apart from high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure, smoking too contributes to heart problem.

Like cigarettes, sugar too has negative implications to health but again many Malaysian consumers remain indifferent in their consumption.

Each time sugar shortage happens, often because traders hoard the commodity to push up the prices on the pretext of a shortage, consumers rush to retail outlets and supermarkets to buy sugar more than they need.

This in reality benefits the traders but consumers remain oblivious to the dangers of excessive sugar consumption to their health especially in their golden years.

When the government announced a 20 sen increase in the price of sugar, the same consumer attitude was seen at business premises.

Consumers were seen filling the shopping carts with sugar with some newspapers flashing pictures of empty sugar racks.

There were instances where unscrupulous traders took advantage of the run for sugar by hiking the price to RM1.70 per kg.

As usual, most consumers lamented that the rise in price will make life difficult for them but fail to realise that it is better to be more prudent in using sugar.

This state of mind prevailing among consumers has defeated the campaigns by the governments and NGOs to push consumers to reduce sugar intake.

The Consumer’s Association of Penang (CAP) that has been advocating the well-being of consumers came up with a handbook ‘Sugar Dangerous for Health’.

Those who have taken the trouble to read the handbook will think twice in consuming sweet delicacies or in adding sugar to their drinks.

According to CAP, chemically sugar is equivalent to alcohol and the chemical reaction is similar to the one caused by heroin.

It is addictive as well.

Malaysians are reported to consume 26 teaspoons of sugar daily compared with recommended intake of seven teaspoon! The record held by Malaysians even surpasses world daily average sugar intake of 11 teaspoons daily.

As for those hooked to canned sweet or carbonated drinks, think again as each can contains between seven and eight teaspoons of sugar.

According to CAP, the white substance that we call as sugar is actually  ‘man-made poison’ and other than its sweetness, there is no nutritional value.

As for those who could not do away with sugar, now think again as sugar is linked with 60 types of diseases including cancer, asthma, allergy, diabetes, coronary disease, biliary stone, problems relating to the immune system, kidney disease and poor mental health.

Also do note that the 2009 statistics revealed 17 per cent of Malaysia’s population of 27 million suffer from diabetes.

Diabetes can lead to other complications like lost of sight, coronary disease, renal failure and stroke! The 2006 data pointed out that 21 per cent of Malaysians are overweight and  6.2 per cent suffer from obesity.

Thus, change into a discerning consumer and choose wisely what is the best for you and your family. — Bernama