A mist of smoke

A mist of smoke

Growing concerns

A mist of smoke

The mounting peer pressure, the fascination to be ‘cool’, modern lifestyle and number of other factors are leading to an increase in the number of people smoking and consuming tobacco despite being aware of its harmful effects.

With ‘World No Tobacco Day’ falling on May 31, the hazards of smoking yet again come into focus.

While many like Sourabh (name changed), a businessman, have realised the advantages of getting rid of the nicotine rush, for many, it is not easy to wean off the habit.

Sourabh had been smoking for 13 years before he decided enough was enough. He says the common refrain is that one will quit over a period of time, “but it is not easy to, unless there is a deadline set”.

“I just quit one final day, after continuous advise from friends and family. And, since the last two years, when I feel an urge to smoke, I just pop in a chocolate,” he says with a smile.

Other youngsters like Tarun (name changed), who has “been trying to reduce smoking” say that there are many steps to “phasing out of the habit”.

“I just moved to a new place, and so I have kept certain spaces dedicated for smoking, when I need to. At work, I cannot smoke at my desk and that helps. This helps to keep away the smell too and in turn reduces to lesser smoking,” says Tarun .

Health professionals talk about the presence of this lifestyle habit and related ailemnts amongst Bengalureans. Professionals like Dr Vishal Rao US, consultant oncologist — head and neck surgeon, Health Care Global talk about how making tobacco products less accessible will help.

“In Karnataka, the prevalence of tobacco consumption is 28 percent of the population. Of this, 20 percent are the people who chew tobacco, 8 percent is ‘beedi’ and 4 percent is cigarette. Seeing the statistics, one can easily understand that chewing tobacco is most common. This has lead to India becoming the ‘world capital for mouth cancers’,” says Dr Vishal.

He adds that an alarming observance is that more mouth cancer cases are seen in the age of 20 to 30 years of age.

“This is a pathetic trend and an embarrassing one globally, as this is a preventive problem,” he says.

On an average, 50,000 cancer cases are added in Karnataka every year, he points out, referring to National Cancer Control programme surveys.

“This is in addition to the 1.5 lakh cases that already exist. More than 50 percent of these are contributed by tobacco. It is pathetic to see that cancer caused by these products are preventive ones and instead of government schemes, all we need is a stress on prevention. Raising awareness and clamping on such resources is the best way to go,” he voices out.

The main ailments that are commonly seem due to tobacco are cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks), lung diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases) and cancers. He says, “In today’s era where healthcare is becoming costlier, one needs to be aware that you are spending out of your own pocket, on something so risky.”

He says that government needs to restrict accessibility to tobacco products, to handle the situation. “The poor people are the one who are most commonly affected, and they bear the brunt the most, since products like ‘beedi’ are not taxed. The most powerful tool is taxation, which has been poorly utilised here,” he says. He adds that “the more costlier the product, the lesser the affordability”.

While, Bengalureans are becoming more health-conscious, tobacco brands continue to target the youth. Medical professionals like Dr Aditi Bhatt, surgical oncologist at Fortis Hospitals, says that about 20 to 30 percent of all the cancers seen are lung cancer and a minimal percentage of them are head and neck cancer cases. “This includes cancer of the jaw, cheek, tongue, food and wind pipe. Of the cases noted, almost 30 percent of all lung cancers are cause by smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cancer in men, and third or fourth among women,” she says.
Age has increasingly become an alarming fact too. Vishal says, “I’ve even seen cases of cancer amongst 10 year olds and onwards. Many below the poverty line take up chewing tobacco, as it also helps to kill hunger.” He adds that in the City, one out of four people have consumed tobacco in some form, at some point of their lives. “And of those who haven’t smoked at all, they have been exposed to passive smoking. Of whatever a smoker smokes out, around 6,000 chemicals of which 60 to 70 are carcinogenic. Also, the unfiltered smoke from the cigarette directly, is dangerous,” he sums up.

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