Butt Who doesn't know it harms!

Smoking Blues

Butt Who doesn't know it harms!

The statutory anti-smoking advisory, that pops up every time a character flaunts a cigarette on screen, puts off many a cinema buff and smokers alike. Irking cinema enthusiasts and filmmakers, the anti-smoking campaign remained in spotlight for all the wrong reasons, especially when Hollywood actor, director Woody Allen refused to release his film Blue Jasmine in India by the end of 2013.

Whether we are a sum of our cinematic experiences or we emulate what we see, remains a moot question. But this time, what has triggered a furore around smoking is a survey that shows the number of women smoking cigarettes in India has doubled since the 1980s, while it has plummeted in countries like the US and China. Metrolife speaks to Delhiites and health experts to gauge this surge of interest in cigarette smoking amongst women beyond the largely propagated ‘cool quotient’. 

Over a puff of smoke that she expertly exhales, Nazneen, an English Honours graduate tells us, “Have you never eaten too much or taken to caffeine because you are stressed or you have an important exam the next morning. It’s the same for me, I take it as a stress-buster and like everyone else I know it’s nothing to be proud of.” She claims, “I thought of giving it up after college, but somehow it continues. Perhaps, I will quit smoking after marriage.”

That’s one story that a lot of young girls rehashed while sharing their cigarette smoking experiences. One of them, Shruti, a lawyer, says, “I am not even a social smoker. While a lot of my friends, who earlier staunchly derided smoking, took to social smoking to fraternise with their bosses, build a network and be a part of the gang, only to quit it at a certain stage; I enjoy the experience as it helps in releasing pressure.” 

“Your body slows down, and you pick it up again. I have tried quitting it umpteen times,” exclaims Durga, an independent filmmaker who thinks she’s addicted to cigarettes. While a lot of girls avoid mentioning it to their parents, she broke the news to her family four years ago. “I don’t think cigarette smoking is related to any specific profession. Perhaps, women in the media are independent and not afraid of societal judgements, while others hide and do it on the sly.” “There are women who quit smoking for the nine months that they were pregnant. They call me right after to check if they could smoke in their breastfeeding stage!” says an amazed Dr Tripat Chowdhary, Senior Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis La Femme.

While Dr Nevin Kishore, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, cautions about, “The risk of cancer such as cervical and breast cancer,” as women are equally susceptible to such diseases owing to smoking, Dr. Tripat elaborates, “Nicotine constricts the flow of blood to placenta leading to intrauterine growth retardation. While smoking might not affect your ability to become pregnant, contrary to men where it lowers their sperm count, it affects the growth of the foetus leading to smaller babies.” 

The doctor cautions, “Chewing nicotine gums, taking to flavoured hookahs, which I doubt do not have any hint tobacco in them, is not a solution. One can only leave the habit of smoking with a strong will. And that is possible because I see pregnant women doing it all the time for their babies.” 

(Names have been changed as interviewees requested anonymity) 

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