Why are women smoking more than earlier? We see that a paradigm shift has taken place in the lives of women. Shedding inhibitions, changing attitudes and much more reasons have developed in the high income groups, and given rise to smoking.
A lot of women have admitted that they got accustomed to smoking because of passive smoking that used to bother them. The second factor of augmentation of smoking among young girls is the BPO industry. Being constantly in touch with smokers, they are eventually tempted or pressurized to try and fall for smoking. Peer pressure among this group is a major factor why they turn to smoking. At times, smoking is considered as an escape from the undesirable corporate pressure.
According to the latest Tobacco Atlas, about 250 million women in the world are daily smokers – 22% being from high resource countries and 9% from low and middle resource countries. And the Atlas says India ranks third in the top 20 female smoking populations across the globe. The statistics are eye opening. Only 20% of the total tobacco consumed in India is in the form of cigarettes, about 40% is in the form of bidis and the remaining 40% is consumed as chewing tobacco. While urban women believe that smoking dulls the appetite and helps them stay slim, the rural women get addicted to bidis by default as they are required to light up their husband’s hukka’s. The smoking statistics are not just figures. What they actually mean is that a teeming number of women are prone to various diseases caused by smoking. They are at a higher risk level than their opposite sex.
The myth that women believe in, especially the younger groups, is that cigarettes make women more seductive, but this is merely a false image of vitality, emancipation, slimness, sophistication and sexual allure. The primary factor that leads women to fag is depression. The work pressure in the office, less time to spend with husband and children, family jangles lead them to follow suit.
Coffee shops, bars, night clubs; all have smoking zones. Girls smoke here because there are not eyes noticed by many. “Many girls smoke only after drinking because they feel less inhibited” says twenty-two-year old Malini Pratap. Even though the percentage chart among women is not that high, but the number is huge. The harm that tobacco causes to men isn’t that serious; women get prone to serious illness because of the exposure of their reproductive system.
Some of the worst illnesses that smoking causes are breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, serious breathing problems (emphysema and chronic bronchitis), problems with the pregnancy, miscarriage and problems with early menopause (the change of life) and osteoporosis (bone disease).
The Indian government has come up with public awareness campaigns (pictorial warnings on cigarette packs) but it hardly has much effect. According to a report, worldwide tobacco consumption could kill six million people in 2010 and most women smokers would die of cancer. The report suggests that female smokers in India are dying eight years earlier than their non-smoking peer group. More stringent legislation and high pricing of cigarettes should be induced to combat the issue.
What do you think can be done?
The writer is a Kolkata based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz