New Naswar Chew­ers

U.S. troops in Afghanistan are de­prived of the sup­port of their loved ones and ex­posed to the most bru­tal, un­pre­dictable and dread­ful world of guns, weapons and bombs. For them cig­a­rettes and var­i­ous forms of smoke­less to­bacco serve as an al­ter­nate source

Southasia - - Labor rights - By Kinza Mujeeb

Al­though cig­a­rette smok­ing has lost its ap­peal to a great ex­tent, the fact that it is no longer con­sid­ered a fash­ion con­tin­ues to be a de­bat­able is­sue. This is mainly due to the wide ac­cep­tance by both the gen­ders and by per­sons of ev­ery age. One can def­i­nitely blame the ad­ver­tise­ments and the me­dia for pro­mot­ing a smok­ing cul­ture. But U.S. sol­diers in Afghanistan, re­turn­ing to their homes with a Naswar ad­dic­tion, have com­pletely dif­fer­ent rea­sons for be­com­ing a prey to sub­stance abuse.

While the WHO cel­e­brates the World No To­bacco Day this month and ad­vo­cates for ef­fec­tive poli­cies to re­duce con­sump­tion, Afghanistan con­tin­ues to be not only the pro­duc­tion cham­ber of smoke­less to­bacco, but also a breed­ing ground for drug ad­dicts. Naswar, also known as Nass or Niswar, is one of the most com­mon types of smoke­less to­bacco in Afghanistan. Naswar pri­mar­ily con­sists of to­bacco leaves, wood ash and cal­cium ox­ide. But as it is a home­made prod­uct, lo­cals tend to add in­gre­di­ents such as cot­ton, se­same oil and some­times even gum to it.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan are not only de­prived of the sup­port of their loved ones, but are also ex­posed to the most bru­tal, un­pre­dictable and dread­ful world of guns, weapons and bombs. Un­der these cir­cum­stances, cig­a­rettes and all other forms of smoke­less to­bacco serve as an al­ter­nate source of com­fort. Smoke­less to­bacco like Nas-

war does have the po­ten­tial to re­lieve the level of stress and anx­i­ety. More­over, the U.S. troops when sur­rounded by a smok­ing cul­ture where con­sum­ing Naswar to get high is con­sid­ered a mun­dane is­sue, find it hard to re­sist the temp­ta­tion. Those who are not in it to re­duce their stress, even­tu­ally find them­selves be­ing tempted to use it out of sheer bore­dom.

Some time back, the U.S. adopted a law called the Pre­vent All Cig­a­rette Traf­fick­ing (PACT). The Act aimed at cut­ting down the rev­enues of the Tal­iban earned by the to­bacco trade. The law pre­vents to­bacco smuggling by mail. But the Act be­came a tar­get of con­stant protests as it also re­strained fam­i­lies and friends of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from send­ing them Naswar through mail. Naswar was per­haps the only source of com­fort that they could read­ily pro­vide to their dear ones in Afghanistan. So there were loud and per­sis­tent protests in the U.S. against this Act. And all that hue and cry did not go in vain. It re­sulted in Sen­a­tor Herb Kohl’s in­tro­duc­tion of an amend­ment in the Act which en­sured an ex­emp­tion for the mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

But there are still many who be­lieve that the PACT could have brought a sig­nif­i­cant change in the sol­diers’ smok­ing and chew­ing habits, and per­haps would have con­trib­uted in cre­at­ing a to­bacco free mil­i­tary. Stud­ies have shown that Naswar can be more haz­ardous than cig­a­rettes, caus­ing lung, mouth and stom­ach can­cers. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion rates to­bacco use as the sec­ond cause of death glob­ally (af­ter hy­per­ten­sion). It is cur­rently re­spon­si­ble for killing one in 10 adults world­wide.

War in Afghanistan is re­ferred to as ‘Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom’. The U.S. gov­ern­ment is of the opin­ion that tran­si­tion will take some years. But weigh­ing the dread­ful ram­i­fi­ca­tions to at­tain that free­dom or tran­si­tion should also be taken into ac­count. Their own sol­diers are dy­ing. Many had to un­dergo am­pu­ta­tions and thou­sands are a vic­tim of PTSD and se­vere men­tal trauma, which has of­ten per­ma­nently de­formed their per­son­al­i­ties. More­over, a large num­ber of sol­diers re­turn home as drug ad­dicts. Aren’t these piled up is­sues am­ple proof of the need to end this fruit­less war im­me­di­ately?

War does not just re­fer to the con­flict be­tween two coun­tries in mar­tial terms but it also has the power to bring about changes in so­cial be­hav­ior of even the in­vad­ing party. War in Afghanistan, with Naswar chew­ing Amer­i­cans, is an elo­quent proof of this phe­nom­e­non. The writer is a jour­nal­ist and re­searcher at Geo.

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