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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

WHO Observes World No Tobacco Day

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. 650 million people in the world today smoke, and eventually they will be killed by their habit. Equally as sad are the hundreds of thousands of people who breath second-hand smoke (involuntary smoking) who will develop serious heart or lung disease or cancers as a result.

Protecting children from second-hand smoke in homes and cars has become a major initiative for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Children who live in homes where people smoke get sick more often with asthma, ear infections, colds and breathing problems. Involuntary smoking has also been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). People in countries around the world are observing World No Tobacco Day activities today.

But those of you who read me regularly, especially some of my posts over at Healthline Connects, know I can be a bit of a contrarian, so bear with me here while I explore some ritual uses of tobacco. Nicotinia tabacum is a perennial herb with large leaves. It has been used for ages in healing and shamanic practices. I personally had the opportunity to witness and participate in some of these tobacco ceremonies in my travels while studying indigenous healing practices at the turn of the millennium. Tobacco is a most important herb to the tribes along the Amazon River, although rather than smoking it recreationally, compulsively, or addictively as in our culture, it is ground and used as a poultice or chewed. When the smoke is used, it is used to purify or ritually cleanse the body and spirit along with prayers and offerings.

North American Indigenous People are promoting the traditional use of sacred tobacco. They promote using the herb less than once a month in ritual ceremonies of healing and prayers with others. I can't help but wonder if a lot of society's problems with addictions could be alleviated if we could regain a sense of the sacred. If we could but find a way to gather with others and share our sorrows, our failings, our hopes, our fears. If we could find a place in our world for these plants that have been with us forever and most likely do, as the elders say, have Good Medicine for us. But maybe that's just a smoke dream...

Thank you Mickki, for use of photo, Tobacco Plant.
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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.