Smoking is no more considered to be a fashion statement; in fact, it is now attributed to being a stress buster. This trend is especially seen in women and adolescents due to the competitiveness at the workplace or education institutions, handling house along with work. Some even believe in the myth that, smoking is a remedy for weight loss, especially for many young females.
Some reports indicate that women smoke more cigarettes than men, while 19.6 percent of women in the age group of 15-19 smoke more than five cigarettes or bidis, and only 15.7 percent of men of the same age smoke the buds.
When it comes to people in India, it has been found that Kolkata has the highest number of smokers, as the National Survey showed that 49 percent of the sample surveyed in the city inhaled injurious tobacco smoke as compared to 43 percent nationally.
Commenting on the trend and tobacco addiction, Dr. Sivaresmi Unnithan, Consultant Pulmonologist, Fortis Hospital, Anandapur, Kolkata said, “Over the last 4-5 years we have seen that the young generation is getting more addicted to smoking mostly because of stress. This stress is related to both their professional and personal life. Women have taken up smoking because they want to keep up with their male counterparts in their specific professional space. They feel left out when the men in the workplace go out for frequent ‘smoke breaks’ with their colleagues and seniors. This can often backfire as women become addicted to smoking, making the process of de-addiction very difficult.”
Some medical experts claimed that they have seen the trend of women smoking not only in the metropolitan cities but also in villages, where bidi smoking is more popular among females. Also, this is prevalent not only in the rural areas of West Bengal but also in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, NorthEast, Sikkim, and Odisha.
However, it was seen that more women as compared to men, in West Bengal tried to stop smoking or using tobacco.
Around 26.9 percent of women tried to abstain from smoking, against, 22.8 percent of men.
But, when it comes to quitting smoking, it is difficult for women to do so, as compared to the other gender. A study done by the University of Burgundy suggested that women find it more difficult to quit. The possible contributors were the higher prevalence of anxiety, depression, and obesity among women.
Dr. Sanjay Garg, Consultant – Mental Health & Behavioral Science, Fortis Hospital, said, “The first and most important step is to identify and quantify an individual’s smoking and its effect in terms of social, occupational, and financial burden. Treatment for anti-smoking involves two major components including behavior therapy and medications. Adopting alternative means of coping with stress, restructuring priorities, involving in extracurricular activities, will help in reducing the habit of smoking. Medications including nicotine replacement therapy in the form of chewing gums and transdermal patches can also help. Other medications may also be used to help cope with stress or other physical health issues.”
Hence, it’s crucial to educate women and even men about the harmful effects of smoking not only on their bodies but also on their moods, especially when it began at an early age. Educational institutions and even offices should have sessions on the topic and even healthy ways of dealing with stress should also be taught.