Study Triggers Smoke Alarm for BPOs
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28 May 2010
By Sumitra Deb Roy
Survey Shows Most Staffers Are Addicted
The heavy–duty campaign against tobacco seems to be going up in smoke as a major chunk of employed educated youth, especially in telemarketing or the BPO sector, is addicted to it. This fact was revealed in a recent study by the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH). The study has also found that their employers seem to care little to help them kick the butt.
Blame it on stress and peer pressure, but the high disposable income among the BPO employees, with an average age of 23, is contributing to the habit. The TMH study presented on Thursday puts it as a serious behavioural change in the industry, which is already plagued by many health hazards.
The 18–month long study, involving four BPOs in the city, has shown that about 41% of the employees consumed tobacco in some form; smoking topped the list. Smoking was also found to be fairly common among women. About 8% of those surveyed were addicted to some form of tobacco, mostly cigarettes.
Of 646 employees who participated from the four BPOs, 253 were addicted to cigarettes, while 17 frequented hookah bars. The rest were found to be addicted to non–smoking forms of tobacco like gutkha, paan masala and betel nut (supari).
“Peer pressure, stress–both at home and at work place–and odd work hours are the most common causes why they take to smoking,” said Dr Gauravi Mishra, assistant professor and physician, department of preventive oncology, TMH.“Many of these educated youth had little knowledge about the ill–effects of tobacco,” she added.“Many of them had respiratory problem and hoarseness of voice, which was aggravated by the voice–based work,” she added.
The study also conducted simultaneous tobacco cessation programmes wherein smokers from the BPOs were provided four alternatives to kick the butt. While one BPO was just provided with educational pamphlets, another was given pamphlets as well as its employees involved in focus group discussions. The third BPO’s employees were given one–on–one counselling and those from the fourth BPO were provided medication to quit tobacco. However, at the end of study, less than 20% of the employees had quit tobacco.“But in the BPO that was provided with medication, about 20% employees quit tobacco and about 45% more had reduced consumption,” said Mishra.
What is worrisome is that of the 134 BPOs that TMH approached, only four agreed to let their employees participate in the study or the cessation programmes.“Attrition was a major hurdle in carrying out the study as many were not available for follow–ups,” said Mishra.
“Young girls don’t realise that smoking heightens the risk of reproductive hazards like low–birth weight, lower gestation period and higher rate of still births, apart from cardio–vascular risks,” said Dr Surendra Shastri, head of preventive oncology of .