Surge in Women Smokers a Cause for Worry for Medical Fraternity
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31 May 2010
World No Tobacco Day
Health experts are observing a 2 to 4 per cent decline in men smokers but a surge in women smokers in recent times. For this reason, it is the fairer sex that is under the scanner on this World No Tobacco Day being observed on May 31.
Doctors say that while a certain realisation has creeped in among men and there is a rise in “quitting groups”, the rising number of women smokers has become a cause of concern. WHO’s theme for this year, “Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women” is particularly designed to draw attention to the harmful effects of tobacco marketing towards women and girls. City–based chest physicians say that there is a considerable increase in smokers among literate women, especially young college girls.
Attributing the trend to stress, peer pressure and high disposable income at young age, Dr Pradyut Waghre, chest physician, Apollo Hospitals, said, “It’s a cause of concern that literate women in sectors like business, medicine, BPO besides college girls from the higher strata of the society are getting addicted to the habit.”
He added that because of this trend, increasing incidents of lung cancer among women, which was not there in the last decade, are being reported both due to direct and passive smoking.
Experts say that while women comprise about 20 per cent of the world’s more than one billion smokers, they are a major target group for the tobacco industry, which needs to get new users hooked onto the habit. Currently, half of the current users are dying prematurely from tobacco–related diseases. Dr Manmadh Rao of Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences further says that while this habit was earlier restricted to women in north India, now, it is picking up in south as well.
“For women, the risk due to smoking is not only from direct but passive smoking too. This habit is a way out to come out of the social, work and family pressures temporarily,” says Dr S V Prasad, superintendent, AP Chest Hospital. Doctors say that controlling tobacco use, which also comes in the form of gutka, pan masala and hooka will help reduce the toll of fatal and crippling heart attacks, strokes, cancers and respiratory diseases that have become increasingly prevalent among women.
Also, women who smoke pose a greater danger not only to their own reproductive health but, if they smoke during pregnancy, to their unborn child.
“Children of smoking mothers are more likely to have more motor control problems, perception impairments, attention disabilities, and social problems than children of nonsmoking mothers,” says Dr G K Paramjyothi, consultant chest physician, Kamineni Hospital.
He further says that women smokers end up having lung diseases much earlier than men because of their smaller lung size.