Smoking and cigarettes? We have something worse in our pockets today

I really think our addiction to our phones could lead to worse consequences than cigarette smoking, especially if statistics continue to increase at this pace

I remember, not so long ago, you would go to a cafeteria for a coffee and you’d go back home smelling like you had been smoking a packet of cigarettes in the basement.

When the smoking ban was introduced back in the mid-2000s there were some murmurs of discontent, and some struggled to follow the new rules. But today? We’re glad we took this step, alongside almost the rest of the world. No more indoor smoking in cafés and restaurants means fresher air around us to enjoy the company.

Over the past 20 years cigarettes went from being cool and chic, to the impression young people have of it today: a foul, unhealthy and smelly habit. If you need any confirmation all you need to do is have a look at Instagram – rarely, if ever, you’ll find someone with a cigarette.

This means less disease, a better environment and healthier people. It means we live longer, and we don’t fill our children’s lungs with toxicity.
As cigarettes and smoking continue their downwards spiral, there is a bigger problem coming through and we’re seeing it getting worse every day.

It’s not something you’d expect – it’s not drugs or alcohol abuse. It’s our ever-growing addiction of standing still, on our phone or tablets. Not moving is becoming a serious health crisis, as obesity figures continue to grow year after year.

This is not a challenge Malta has, but across the globe. As our lives are inundated with data-driven Netflix suggestions, games and social media it has become ever more difficult to look at simple things, such as a walk or a jog, and prefer them.

In Malta, we have the highest rate of obesity in the EU at almost 30%, followed by the UK and Hungary according to WHO statistics. This has steadily increased by 0.5% every year.

All this has a lot of consequences. In terms of health, we need to look at exercising as becoming a must need rather than a want. In every shape or form, this is a major health crisis and the children who are brought up on lack of exercise and poor dieting will face the music once they are older.

To combat smoking some drastic measures were taken. Some were quite unpopular. But today, years down the line, we look at those steps and thank those who contributed towards them.

For obesity, we have to do the same. There’s many things one can do, but at the end of the day it has to be the individual, or in the case of a child it has to be the parent, who understands the importance of exercising.

In schools, we have increased PE lessons over the past years and introduced important initiatives such as the Morning Walks, where staff and pupils alike take some time in the morning and have a pleasant walk or jog. However this is a problem that goes beyond schools.

It has to be a societal change. If we take the example of cigarettes, yes, schools did play the part.

But there were a hundred other steps taken for change to happen.

I really think our addiction to our phones could lead to worse consequences than cigarette smoking, especially if statistics continue to increase at this pace.

Change is something we have to work for, and introducing an attitude in favour of sport, exercising and training is going to be the challenge in the next decade.