24 September 2010
By Pratibha Masand
Mumbaikars who worry that their adolescent children would take up smoking due to peer pressure, may now have an extra reason to worry. A study conducted by a team of city doctors shows that youngsters were more into chewing tobacco than smoking–in fact the former addiction was six times more than the latter. In fact, the number of youngsters in Mumbai consuming chewing tobacco youngsters has more than doubled in a decade.
Doctors, incidentally, blame "the Indian culture" for the rise in tobacco chewing. "In India, it is considered a taboo for youngsters to smoke in front of elders. But having pan masala is perfectly fine. In fact, we have seen many cases, in which the parents themselves start giving small grains of paan masala to teething children," said Dr Surendra Shastri, professor and head of the preventive oncology department in Tata Memorial Hospital. "The cost also matters, as a pan masala packet costs 50 paise and a pack of 20 cigarettes Rs 100. Even those paan masalas that claim to be 100% free of tobacco are carcinogenic," he added.
The survey has also revealed that there has been a rise in the number of girls consuming tobacco, and the figure has been pretty high. "While a decade ago, 3.8% boys and 1.4% girls chewed tobacco, the percentages have gone up to 7.3 and 4.4 now," Sonavane added.