31 May 2008
By Laxmi Birajdar
Is smoking bad? Who cares!
Forget the notion of teenage boys taking puffs. Today, it’s adolescent girls who are taking to smoking in a big way, despite the obvious health hazards, say experts
Unfortunately, however, despite growing evidence that smoking kills, the scene has not changed much over the years. Tobacco is still the symbol of independence for youngsters. No wonder the World Health Organisation, on the occasion of No Tobacco Day on May 31, has issued a poster that reads: “The tobacco industry catches you young.”
What worries health experts is that young girls are increasingly being drawn into the net. Till a few years ago a girl taking a puff was a rare sight. Not any more! “Often young girls take to smoking because they feel the need to prove their independent. It’s their way of expressing angst”, says Mukta Puntambekar, deputy director of Muktangan de–addiction centre. She observes women are vulnerable to smoking especially during their teens, and more so if their parents are smokers.
There’s also the impact of poorly chosen role models and peer pressure. And, an overwhelming detachment towards the danger. “Misconceptions and a wrong attitudes lead
young people towards smoking. They don’t look at it as a problem”, says Puntambekar.
She remembers the amount of flak Muktangan volunteers got a few months ago, when they went door–to–door in Pune, trying to acquire information of addiction in each family for a pilot study on the same. “People refused to reveal who smoked or drank in the family”, she says.
It’s exactly the same with young collegians who want to look hip and happening with their nicotine sticks, but refuse to talk openly about their addiction. “Young girls, who smoke, usually suffer from a guilty conscience, because they have to constantly hide their addiction from their parents and teachers”, says Shirish Patwardhan, vice–president elect of the federation of obstetric and gynaecological societies of India (FOGSI).
Hormonal imbalances like irregularity in menstrual cycle, is the most drastic effect on their young bodies. Also, smoking is a major cause for all kinds of cancer, including cancer related to the woman’s reproductive system. It’s important to note that if people stop smoking, there will be almost 40 per cent reduction in cancer–related problems”, says Patwardhan.
Smoking reduces one’s metabolic rate and hunger, but is not the right way to tackle one’s weight. Even mechanical smoking–which doesn’t involve inhaling of the smoke–quite common among young girls, is equally harmful, as it can cause mouth cancer.
Muktangan conducts sessions on de–addition at colleges and PMC schools, which includes talks on important youth–related issues like their personality development, value education, sex education, handling addiction and stress management. “What is required is correcting the youth’s misconception about smoking. During these sessions, we try to correct wrong beliefs about addiction. That’s the beginning”, says Puntambekar.