BLOG: Smoking is not cool

BLOG: Smoking is not cool

As the new health-e Tobacco Control and Cancer journalist, Lesley was surprised to find herself smoking in this posed pic. Here is the first of her blogs.

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I had my first cigarette when I was 12 with my best friend who so happened to be the first boy I ever kissed. I later again ‘€˜learnt’€™ how to smoke in high school with my great friend turned sister. But as I get wiser, I realise that despite the fact that I take a drag every now and then, smoking is not cool. Neither is taking a picture of yourself at 7:32 am because you think it would be nice to have a graphic to show the contradiction, but there you have it.

Welcome to the renovation of the health-e Tobacco Control (TC) and Cancer page. The great thing about renovating is that it means you liked what you saw and see ample room for improvement. So here you have it. We will be adding literature reviews, a resource page, expert opinions, survivor stories, doccies, picture essays and even a section where you can send in your tale of how you quit smoking (send to  Lesley[at]health-e.org.za). I hope that this page can be a resource you can come to when you or a friend need to know more about health in general and how addiction, unexpected cancer and non-communicable diseases are affecting our continent. We also hope that if enough of us show that we care and find it unjustifiable that people suffer from cancer unnecessarily and that smoking is one of the most harmful and advertised addiction there is in the world

Of course no story is complete without a villain, and this time it will come in the form, not only big pharma companies, but big tobacco. Yes those men in suits and the Malboro man want life to be stressful so we will keep lighting up. So we will look into how rich these guys get every time we take a drag, how cancer pharma works and most importantly, how the poor suffer most right here in Africa. NCDs are on the rise. And yet again women are the worst targets. In Africa, the second highest number of cancer cases is cervical cancer- an avoidable illness women get from not accessing regular pap smears and which one contracts through HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. So in the era of AIDS, cancer is an additional burden. We think we have more cancer today in Africa, but truthfully, it is just the first time it is exposed.

So join me, Lesley, as we uncover what we can do to stay healthy. This is a place for information, personal stories and assistance. Not judgement. We all have our addictions and habits. The concept of health integration is so embedded in the work I do. I started as a journalist in 2002 and found my way through the web of AIDS activism at TAC (ww.tac.org.za), Doctors without Borders (MSF) (www.msf.org.za ) and entered a complex world of neglected diseases, STI, lung health and family planning. I encourage you to send me story ideas so that one of the team all over Africa can follow up on your tobacco control and cancer health challenges. I will be travelling to the World Lung Health conference in Oct and the Health-e will be at the Cairo Cancer Conference later in the year to ensure that African voices are heard. Check in once a week or subscribe to health-e’€™s weekly news alert on the main page.

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This week we will be reporting on what took place at the NCD conference in New York last week. An activist will share her experiences of living through cancer treatment.  We will also hear from award-winning AIDS activist, Gregg Gonsalves as he speaks out against big tobacco and fights for meaningful public participation. Next week is the beginning of breast cancer awareness month. Even though this is a preventable disease, there is no screening in the health system for breast cancer.

Last week, a woman shared her experiences of breast cancer in Behind Her Smile (article link) on Special Assignment in a doccie by health-e. It is an honour to share the personal stories of people. I hope that we can keep the dignity of these people at the center of all our work.

Let me know what you think on twitter @healthenews and @lesleyjanerose. Happy reading. Oh and if you are into films, watch the new film on tobacco control in Indonesia called Sex, Lies and Cigarettes, by  Vanguard correspondent Christof Putzel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n_utUXhohg) and U tube smoking baby- no it is NOT funny, because smoking is not cool after all.

Happy start of breast cancer awareness month on Friday. We will be talking to a man who had breast cancer. Teach someone you love to give themselves a breast examination.

Lesley