In a cloud of smoke

In a cloud of smoke

In a cloud of smoke
For 19-year-old Arjun Gopinath, who started smoking because of peer pressure, it wasn’t the advertisement on cigarette packets that made him quit. His father’s youngest brother who lived with them was a chain smoker and prone to regular ailments like a burning throat, cancer of the tongue and ulcer in the mouth. Before the family could realise it, he passed away and it left Arjun in a state of shock. This was 2 years back, and Arjun hasn’t smoked since. 
Saket Sagar (name changed), a 23-year-old professional, says that he has been trying to quit, but finds it difficult. “Some people pick it up as a relationship-building activity. My friends used to smoke and I’d feel left out so slowly, I also became addicted to it. Now I smoke at least 15 cigarettes a day. I have tried e-cigarettes and nicotine patches but they haven’t helped. I’ve joined a gym now and have registered myself with a local help group and am slowly making progress,” he says.

Saket adds that while it is easy to pick up the habit, it’s difficult to ‘kick the butt’. Arjun and Saket are only some of the youngsters  who picked up this habit from their peers. The City is seeing new smokers by the day. Doctors point out that the outcome of consuming tobacco products — like cancer and heart attack — are more common among the youth now than ever.  Dr Gopi A, director of cardiac catheterization laboratory and coordinator of the department of cardiology, Fortis Hospitals, says, “Smoking by itself can cause a number of ailments, heart attack being the most common. There might not be any other noticeable risk factors, but sudden blockages in the blood vessels appear and it can lead to life-threatening complications,” he explains.

He points out that any measure to reduce the consumption of tobacco-related products should be welcomed. “In anti-smoking campaigns, the fact that smoking can cause cancer is highlighted, but many do not realise that it affects the heart as well. Detailed information of the number of cases of heart attacks should be circulated,” says Dr Gopi.

Dr Vishal Rao, consultant oncologist with Health Care Global Enterprises, says that there is more awareness among people, but the tobacco industry uses aggressive marketing strategies to gain customers it loses. “The same companies that talk about corporate social  responsibility put up huge advertisements that show youngsters enjoying their harmful products. This is done to increase the sales figures.” 

A worrisome trend is that number of cancer cases have have increased in young people. “Youngsters have a poorer immune system these days. More than 50% of these cancers are preventable and there are around 18 varieties of cancers that are related to tobacco consumption,” Dr Vishal says. He adds that while smoking, a person is exposed to around 7,000 chemicals. “From Alzheimer’s to cataract, gangrene, lung cancer, osteoporosis and infertility, smoking hits one’s body all across.”

Academicians have also been doing their bit to spread awareness among the youth. Joshua Samuel, principal of Baldwin Methodist College, says that the college management makes it a point to arrange seminars and talks on the harms of smoking at regular intervals. “In case we find a student smoking, we reprimand them and make sure the parents are alerted. It is always best to face the situation and take action.”

Joshua doesn’t think the increase in taxes on tobacco products will make an impact. “Most smokers don’t feel the pinch because the increase of price isn’t significant. Either they will opt for cheaper brands or find other alternatives for the nicotine rush.” He adds, “Creating awareness among parents and youngsters about the side-effects is the only way out.”

Jyotsna Nair, vice-principal of National Public School Koramangala, says that there are no such cases in their school. “In the society, there are more takers for drinkers and smokers now. Better communication between parents and children is important for them to feel that they can open up about such problems,” she says. She feels schools should also introduce lifeskill classes, where teachers can have conversations with students and parents in case of averse situations.