In some startling statistics, the latest Tobacco Atlas estimates that about 250 million women in the world are daily smokers — with India ranking third in the top 20 female smoking populations across the globe. Cigarette cravings are a major reason why smokers find it so hard to quit the butt, especially as this strong urge to smoke can be easily evoked by sensory cues and stress.
All a mind game
It’s all a mind game when it comes to smoking, says Dr Vijay Anand Reddy, Director, Apollo Cancer Hospital, Hyderabad. “It is easier to treat cancer than get a person to quit smoking. Women smokers in India are increasing, especially among the younger generation and working women. We need to do more advocacies on not initiating smoking or chewing tobacco. Once you start using tobacco, it is very difficult to quit. 90 per cent start in their teens and only 3 per cent quit. 10 per cent women indulge in tobacco usage in one form or the other in Telangana itself. Hence, prevention is better than cure,” he explains.
Youngsters like Neha feel that smoking helps to cope with boredom and stress. “I mostly smoke out of boredom. I find smoking as the only exciting thing when I am getting bored after work,” says the 30-year-old professional.
Neha’s not the only one. MNC professional Joy had his first puff when he initially started working and since then, the number of smokes per day have increased by leaps and bounds.
“When I joined my first workplace, I saw my colleagues and seniors going for smoke breaks. I used to accompany them and before I realised it, I took up smoking myself. From a shared puff to 10 cigarettes a day, the journey has been long. But do I regret smoking? Not really, smoking gives me the kick when I am bored or stressed out,” he says.
A life-threatening habit
Approximately 22.73 per cent (250 million) of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in India.
Cancer is not the only risk smokers face. Smoking also clogs the blood vessels, causing heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular diseases. According to a joint study by the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Project and WHO, it was reported that more than half the smokers in India did not know that smoking causes strokes, and over a third didn’t know that it causes heart disease.
Day starts with it
Interestingly, the focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 which falls on May 31 is on tobacco and lung health. The campaign will increase awareness on the negative impact that tobacco has on people’s lung health — from cancer to chronic respiratory diseases, as well as highlight the fundamental role that lungs play for the health and well-being of all people. But for many, the day starts with a smoke.
“I know smoking is injurious to health with all the warnings on cigarette packets but my morning doesn’t start if I don’t smoke,” says Alka Singh, product and UI designer.
Passive smoking more dangerous
Highlighting the dangers of tobacco consumption, Dr S. Mallikarjun Rao, Senior Consultant, Pulmonologist and Chest Specialist, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderguda, says, “No form of tobacco consumption is safe, whether it is smoking cigarettes, beedis, gutka, khani etc. Even the variation of cigarettes doesn’t lighten the harmful effect. Recurrent respiratory infections, bronchitis, COPD, TB, premature aging, heart attacks, brain strokes and cancer are some of the diseases any direct or passive smoker might be vulnerable to. Women smoke lighter cigarettes thinking that they contain less nicotine and other chemicals but indirectly they suffer more.”
— With inputs from Swati Sharma...