Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gotta have just one more....

When I drive to my work place or visit some restaurants in Bangalore, I have seen a new trend these days. The spread of smoking habit among students and women. The tobacco epidemic is now shifting towards women, especially young women in developing countries, with serious consequences for their health, income, unborn children and family. Cigarette smoking was rare among women in the early 20th century and became prevalent among women after it did among men. Although fewer women smoke than men, the percentage difference between the two has continued to decrease year to year. Today, with a much closer gap between men's and women's smoking rates, women share a much larger burden of smoking-related diseases.

In India, about one-third of women use at least one form of tobacco. Overall prevalence of bidi and cigarette smoking among women is about 3% and 22 per cent women consumers use smokeless tobacco.

With laws in industrialized nations putting curbs on tobacco companies, there is a scramble among the several tobacco giants to conquer new markets. In India, women are the targets of aggressive marketing campaigns by foreign tobacco firms, which have launched several "women's brands". The latest figures from anti-smoking organizations show a rise of 18 percent in the number of women smokers in India. The tobacco industry promotes cigarettes to women using seductive but false images of vitality, slimness, modernity, emancipation, sophistication, and sexual allure. In reality, it causes disease and death. Tobacco companies have now produced a range of brands aimed at women. Most notable are the women-only brands: these feminised cigarettes are long, extra-slim, low-tar, light-coloured or menthol. (My gyan about this is through a paan-wala near to my house where I often have my chai.)

The prevalence of smoking in colleges has been seen to be on the rise than in other urban areas in India, which is a cause of concern. "Peer pressure" is one of the leading reasons for the college students for smoking, followed by reasons like "smoking for fun" and "relief". Depression is also leading youngsters to the stick. The shocking thing is that majority of these students are aware of the ill-effects of smoking but still go for it as a display of cool attitude and stamp of modernity.

The health aspects related to smoking among women are grim. Smoking causes more breathing difficulties in women than in men. In India where betel quid chewing is widespread among women, oral cancer is more common among women than breast cancer. In addition women also suffer from general respiratory problems. Female smokers are more susceptible to osteoporosis or "brittle bones". Also, smoking during pregnancy significantly increases the chances of the infant dying of sudden infant death syndrome, delivering a pre-mature baby, delivering a low birth-weight baby, impairing the child's long-term growth and intellectual development, etc.

A nice detailed article here on the changing trend.

In 2003, India passed the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, which prohibits all direct and indirect advertising of tobacco products, smoking in public places, sales of tobacco products to people younger than 18, and sales of tobacco products near educational institutions. Yet in spite of this legislation, the tobacco industry has developed ways around it.

This pattern was seen very clearly in the USA after the introduction and advertising of brands of cigarettes for women in the late 1960s.There were substantially increased initiation rates only among women younger than 18 years old, who remained smokers into adulthood and increased the overall adult female smoking rates in the 1970s and 1980s. Same trend is spreading to India today.

Is it a fad or what?

Keep reading and remain connected.

(These views are my own and are not intended to hurt any individual. These are just open expressions of what I see these days. After all, if one wishes to smoke male/female, it’s totally a personal choice and preference, Who’s me in all this?)


At 8:13 PM, Blogger delphinium said...

hi tanay!
it's true!...the liberated woman has definitely conquered most of the previously male-dominated turfs but in the process has inculcated many of his bad habits.
a young woman who smokes has been given a very attractive image and this is quite wrong.who ever said that "to be like a guy" was liberating?...i think it's the most liberating to be yourself.but we have a lot of misguided youth-about half of them young girls-who wanna "be cool" and "like the boys"...girls are just as good, maybe even better-but we don't see men striving to be like women...this notion of "liberation" is slightly skewed and this is sad.we may also consider that since today's women may have to beat the stress of outside life-but there are better ways and we all know it...for me as a woman & a doctor,it's quite depressing to see these trends developing in our country...
this is a good article tanay.


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