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Indian women going up in smoke?

It’s common knowledge that smoking is injurious to health — even passively. But it seems women in the city are yet to get the memo. According to the latest edition of the Tobacco Atlas, India places third in the list of top 20 female smoking populations in the world.

health and fitness Updated: Aug 21, 2012 16:45 IST
Shweta Mehta

It’s common knowledge that smoking is injurious to health — even passively. But it seems women in the city are yet to get the memo. According to the latest edition of the Tobacco Atlas, India places third in the list of top 20 female smoking populations in the world.

What’s also shocking is that while the average Indian male smokes about 6.1 cigarettes a day, the Indian woman outpuffs him with 7.

Here, we look at why the hazardous trend is catching on among women and what its most visible side-effects are:

Shrink speak
More financial freedom and exposure at a young age are the prime factors that contribute to women picking up the habit, according to psychologist Mansi Hasan. “It often begins due to peer pressure, then stays on as a mechanism to cope with stress. In the teens, it’s considered cool, and apparently attracts boys,” says Hasan. She adds, “Girls’ families might not be pleased, but parental supervision has reduced, so they smoke between classes and during breaks at work, and the families don’t even know.” Hasan claims that several married women also hide the habit from their spouses: “You can tell them they’ll get cancer, but that usually doesn’t have much effect. Most women quit only when they want to have children.”

Smoker’s logic
Anisha Sharma, a 24-year-old city-based entrepreneur, has been smoking actively for over four years now and makes no bones about it: “I first tried smoking at 16, and was aware of the hazards. Initially, I made excuses like ‘It relaxes me’ or ‘It’s only one or two a day’, but eventually, I accepted the fact that I just enjoyed smoking. For me, it was never about peer pressure. I smoke five-seven cigarettes a day. It hasn’t affected my health so far. I haven’t tried to quit yet, but I do intend to at some point.”

She adds, “When I walk down the street, I still get strange looks. I can’t smoke around the area I live in for fear of anyone I know seeing me.”

Rough puff
Cosmetic dentist Dr Sajid Shaikh lists some of the most frightening effects of tobacco:
* Increased risk of tooth loss and gum disease.
* Inflammation of salivary glands.
* Delays healing after tooth extraction and can lead to a temporary and painful condition known as dry socket.
* Less success with periodontal treatments and dental implants.
* Loss of taste and smell.
* Stains and discolours teeth, causes bad breath.
* Can cause black hairy tongue, which refers to growth on the tongue, making it look hairy and turning it yellow, green, brown or black.
* Loss of taste and smell, stains teeth.
* Inflammation of the salivary gland openings on the roof of the mouth.
* Increased build-up of plaque and tartar.
* Increased risk of developing oral cancer, leukoplakia, white patches inside the mouth and loss of bone within the jaw.

What passive smoking does to your skin According to Dr Nishita Sheth, an aesthetic dermatologist from Looks Clinic, Bandra, not smoking is not enough. One needs to stay away from passive smoke, which increases chances of skin pigmentation, dullness and dryness. “Exposure to nicotine soot makes the skin excessively dry and also causes the blood vessels in our face to dilate. Passive smoking is just as dangerous as smoking, because one inhales the same amount of nicotine,” she warns.

The effects of nicotine soot on the skin are similar to those of excessive sun exposure. It causes high levels of tanning and even diseases like asthma.