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Power ‘Puff’ Girls: Women Light up More

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I wanted to try out everything in life. Smoking was one of those things. When I took my first puff, I liked it. I didn’t find anything wrong with smoking. What began as a treat soon turned into a necessity. Once I joined work, it became worse. Instead of a cup of coffee, I needed a smoke to get me going. Even today, it helps me to deal with pressure at work.

Sarah P, Media Professional

Sarah is not alone. The latest data from the health ministry show that overall cigarette consumption in India is declining, but there has been a corresponding rise in the number of women smokers. A study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in 2012 showed there were 12.7 million women smokers as compared to 5.3 million in 1980. Interestingly, India is second only to the US in the number of women smokers.

Interestingly, India is second after the US when it comes to women smokers.(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

Social Factors

Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Healthcare Hospital, said that stress is a major factor for the rise.

Stress is closely related to a rise in smoking by women. Women who come here say that it was stress that got them hooked to cigarettes.

Dr Sameer Malhotra

Stress, peer pressure, camaraderie – women claim that smoking breaks are great for fraternising at work.

“Yes. It’s an obvious common ground. Smoking bays are the one secluded part of your office where you can have a one-on-one conversation with people. It’s your oasis,” said lawyer Priya Kaur.

I have had cases of girls, who took up smoking because they were discriminated for being non-smokers. Similar, situation arises when women join a male-dominated profession.

Seema Hingorrany, Clinical Psychologist

Seema Hingorrany alone has seen a 50-60 percent rise in the number of smoking among women in the last five years. (Photo : iStockphoto)

Global Trends

“This is an expected rise. India is a developing nation witnessing tremendous socio-economic development coupled with increasing financial independence among women. The tobacco industry sees women as lucrative consumers waiting to be tapped,” Monika Arora, director of health promotion division at PHFI, told a leading news daily.

The tobacco industry sees women as lucrative consumers waiting to be tapped at this point. (Photo: iStockphoto)

According to Seema, women strongly believe that it’s better to smoke than to pop a pill to de-stress, “They want to stay away from any kind of medication, especially if it’s from a clinical psychologist.”

Women strongly believe that it’s better to smoke than to pop a pill to de-stress. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Oh Man! How Smoking Takes a Toll on Women

Smoking affects men and women differently.

Dr. Rahul Mittal, Consulting Physician said, “For pregnant women, smoking has a negative influence on the foetus’s growth. Also, smoking leaves women who have entered menopause more susceptible to cardiovascular disease. ”

But why is it difficult for a woman to quit?

Women tend to suffer withdrawal symptoms more severely than men.

Puff to stay slim is the age-old mantra for most women especially models. Fear of weight gain becomes a disincentive to stub that cigarette.

According to a study carried by Amanda Amos, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, there are four stages of the smoking epidemic. India is currently in the second stage. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Matter Of Fact

Interestingly, the smoking among men has remained in the range of 45-57 percent between 1995-96 and 2009-10. But that’s hardly breaking news.

According to a study carried by Amanda Amos, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, there are four stages of the smoking epidemic. India is currently in the second stage.

In this stage, the number of men who smoke overall is higher than that of women but the rate of increase among women is higher.

In the third stage, smoking among men starts to decline; whereas the number of women smokers reach their peak but remains low compared to men.

During the final stage, consumption begins to decline in both sexes. Male mortality rate from smoking peaks and female deaths begin to rise rapidly.

But do these figures reflect the actual number of women smokers in India? Maybe not.

There are instances when women don’t admit in public that they smoke for socio-cultural reasons. So the reported figure might be incorrect as there are more women out there who smoke.

Dr AK Singh, Senior Consultant, Pulmonolgy, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Delhi

Here is hoping India doesn’t reach the ‘deadly’ final stage.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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