‘Fourteen percent Indian students use tobacco regularly’ (May 31 is World No Tobacco Day)

May 30th, 2008 - 5:24 pm ICT by admin  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Over 14 percent of Indian students are regular tobacco users, reflecting the global trend of most people beginning to smoke before the age of 18 - an alarming statistic that the World Health Organisation (WHO) thinks can be reduced by banning tobacco advertisements. “Globally, most people start smoking before the age of 18, with almost a quarter of them beginning before the age of 10. The younger the children are when they first try smoking, the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users and the less likely they are to quit,” the WHO said in its official website.

The UN body has chosen ‘Tobacco-Free Youth’ as its theme for the World No Tobacco Day, which will be observed Saturday.

It has urged countries to ban tobacco advertisements completely since there is “a strong link between advertising and smoking in young people”.

“The more aware and appreciative young people are of tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to smoke or say they intend to,” the global health watchdog said.

Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) chief K. Srinath Reddy said the prevalence of tobacco use among school students is a cause of worry. “Overall, 14.7 percent of Indian students use tobacco.” It’s not just cigarette but they consume gutkha and bidi as well.

In the 15 to 49 age group 57 percent of Indian males and nearly 11 percent females consume tobacco, Reddy said.

Tobacco is the main cause of major ailments like cardiovascular problems, cancer and obstructive pulmonary diseases. Every minute, 10 people, including two Indians, lose their life due to tobacco related diseases across the globe, according to the WHO.

Tobacco kills 50 to 75 percent of its users and on average “15 years prematurely”.

“Currently, tobacco use causes one in 10 deaths among adults worldwide - more than five million people a year,” the UN body said.

Experts said that with many European countries formulating stricter norms against tobacco use, manufacturers are targeting countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“Tobacco companies push their products wherever youth can be easily accessed - in films, on the Internet, in fashion magazines and at music concerts,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, director of the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), a federation of 4,500 voluntary groups.

“When so many people are losing their lives, authorities and civil society cannot sit in peace. We need to ban tobacco advisements - direct or surrogate - at the earliest,” Mukhopadhyay told IANS.

Reddy said the prevalence of tobacco use in the form of gutkha or bidi is higher in rural India than urban areas.

Shivani Sachdev Gour, an infertility expert here, said that tobacco use leads to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

“The more you smoke, the greater the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, still birth and having a low-birth weight baby,” she said.

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