India seems to have come a long way from the time when the only women who were seen smoking openly were vamps in movies.
Two recent surveys have found that a growing number of women are smoking, especially in sectors such as the Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) and media.
While researchers found that eight per cent of women working in BPOs in the city smoked, in media organisations the prevalence rate varied from five to 35 per cent.
This is much higher than the national average — about 1.5 per cent of Indian women are smokers.
While peer pressure and stress were found to be the most common factors for pushing people to smoke, women in particular had various misplaced notions about smoking. “Many women considered it a sign of liberation, an affirmation of their identity as a free person and an equal,” said Dr Gauravi Mishra from Tata Memorial Hospital.
She and her colleagues had conducted the study with 646 employees working at four BPOs in the city over 18 months.
The study of media houses was conducted by Dr Ravikant Singh from non-governmental organisation ‘Doctors for You’ last month.
He interviewed 1,500 mediapersons working at 15 print, electronic and advertising companies.
“Some women mediapersons were smoking excessively to curb hunger pangs. Two advertising professionals were diagnosed with tuberculosis because of the same reason,” said Dr Singh.
The worse part is that a majority of the women surveyed were not aware that apart from cancer and heart disease, smoking could lead to reproductive health problems.
“Smoking can cause infertility, miscarriages and still births. It is worrying that women don’t know about this,” sad Dr Mishra.
No study was conducted on female smokers earlier so there are no statistics to prove the rising trend. But Dr Singh said most people surveyed had said they had noticed more women smoking, especially since 2007.