Young urban Indian women are puffing away and more women are chewing tobacco than ever before — making them vulnerable to heart disease, stroke and
various forms of cancer.
Smoking has risen threefold among young urban women, with one in 10 under the age of 30 smoking in Delhi and Mumbai today compared to 2.9% in 2010.
Globally, 250 million women smoke — 22% of women in developed countries and 9% in developing countries are smokers.
While smoking among women has declined in developed countries such as the US, UK and Canada, it is rising sharply in eastern Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.
In India, 24.3% men and 2.9% women smoke, Global Adult Tobacco Survey’s India report — which covered 29 states and the union territories of Chandigarh and Puducherry — said last year.
Chewing tobacco in India has traditionally been a women’s addiction. Its use rose from 11.5% in 2005 to 20.3% in 2010 though overall tobacco use in men dropped from 57.6% to 47.9% during the period.
One in three (35%) adults (274.9 million) use tobacco in India.
Research has established that young women are more likely than men to get addicted to smoking and are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
The WHO links smoking with 25 women's cancers — lung, cervix, breast and colon to name a few. Even secondhand smoke raises breast cancer risk in women.
"More than in men, smoking increases risk of stroke and heart disease among young women, with those also taking contraceptive pills increasing their risk 10-fold" says Dr Ravi Kasliwal, chairman, preventive and clinical cardiology, Medanta.
And this upward swing will continue. "With cigarettes being marketed with images of modernity, emancipation… the gender disparity among smokers will soon even out completely and you'll see as many women smokers as men in the next five years," said Dr Samir Parikh, director of behavioural sciences at Fortis Hospitals.