Smoking it out!

Smoking it out!

'No Tobacco Day'

Smoking it out!

For six years, 28-year-old Rahul Ramachandran smoked; precisely 18 to 20 cigarettes a day. A year ago, he quit.

“My dad’s death had an impact on me. He was a chain smoker and last year, he died of lung cancer. That changed me. In an attempt to quit, I tried everything — e-cigarettes, chewing gum, but nothing worked. Then I switched to flavoured cigarettes, which had a pungent smell. Slowly, I was able to reduce the number to five a day. From five, I went on to half-a-cigarette. And then one day, I completely gave it up.”

While Rahul’s experience is not singular, a large majority cannot wean themselves off the habit. This ‘World No Tobacco Day’ is also a grim reminder on how it’s time to push the button. As smoking cessation remains an uphill task, more and more youngsters are getting hooked on to it. 

The facts are disturbing as Dr Vishal Rao, oncologist, BGS Global Hospital, points out, “Almost 29 per cent of our adult population consume tobacco-related products. We have more and more young patients suffering from cancer. India is climbing the global chart for increasing cases of cancer. Those in the age group of 30 to 35 are suffering from heart attacks.”

“The younger generation is experimenting with tobacco and the age of initiation is now around 10 years. There are more cases of cancer among the young. The marketing of tobacco products is also focussed on them,” he adds.

Upendra Bhojani, faculty, Institute of Public Health,  explains, “What really influences young people are the social norms prevailing in society. One important factor is the peer influence and being in the company of friends who use tobacco. Tobacco has a lot of social connotations. It has become a medium of socialisation.”

While tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death, Bhojani points out, “According to a Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) Karnataka, 90.1 per cent of adults believe that smoking causes serious illness and 87.7 per cent of adults believe that exposure to tobacco smoke causes serious illnesses in non-smokers. But the awareness that tobacco is harmful is not enough. We need to go beyond that. Awareness is not enough to change behaviour,” he says."

The panacea probably lies in the theme of this year’s ‘World No Tobacco Day’ — raise tobacco tax, lower death and disease. 

“If these products are costlier, youngsters will not touch it. Taxation can help in rehabilitation of poor patients. As far as gutka and paan are concerned, there is a need to educate people on its ill-effects. It should be made a part of the curriculum in text books,” adds Dr Rao.

Experts say that the advertising and entertainment sector should think twice when they portray smoking as a large section of their viewers happen to be those of a formidable age. “We see a lot of kiosks completely made of cigarette brands. There is a need to denormalise tobacco companies and tobacco advertisements and counter promotions of tobacco and tobacco-related products,” points out Bhojani.

“Educational institutions and their premises should be completely free of tobacco. Availability of tobacco in and around schools should be stopped. Young people get hooked to this because of stress — caused by exams, affairs etc. Therefore, it is important to have counselling support within the schools. By raising taxes on tobacco and allied products, the amount can be invested back on healthcare. Higher prices discourage youth from initiating into cigarettes. Taxes are a way to finance the health system,” he informs.  

Meanwhile, Rahul continues to keep a safe distance from cigarettes. “Condition the mind. Ultimately, it’s all in the mind,” he says.

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