It’s common knowledge that smoking is injurious to health — even passively. But, it seems like women are yet to get the memo. According to the latest edition of a research called Tobacco Atlas, which is conducted by the World Lung Foundation, India is placed third in the list of top 20 female smoking populations in the world.
What’s shocking is that while the average Indian male smokes about 6.1 cigarettes a day, the Indian woman outpuffs him with 7. We look at why the hazardous trend is catching on among women and its most visible side-effects:
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 to 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.”
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 hide this 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.”
Kick the butt
While quitting smoking may take a lot of self-control, there are things you can do to fight that pang. Distract yourself by chewing on sugar-free gum, raisins or celery. Chart out your goal in writing and measure your progress daily. Eat small, multiple meals that keep your blood-sugar levels stable, and, don’t be afraid to share your problem with peers and family.
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, 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, say doctors.