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Smoke bomb ticking

india Updated: Mar 20, 2008 01:21 IST
Sanchita Sharma

More than one in five students, before the age of 15, use some form of tobacco, says a pan-India, school-based survey carried out among 12,086 children between 13 and 15 years.

While 15.6 per cent smoke cigarettes, 15.9 per cent said they use some form of tobacco.

The survey was carried out in 2006 and is part of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) conducted in 140 countries. It is the second GYTS survey conducted in India, the first was in 2003. Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss will release the findings on Thursday.

“A comparison with the 2003 data — when there were no restrictions on tobacco use — shows that the national ban on smoking in public places and selling tobacco to minors are working. Exposure to second-hand smoke in public places has decreased from 49 per cent to 40 per cent at the national level, while the percentage of those who light their first cigarette before the age of 10 has dropped from 48.6 per cent to 36.9 per cent,” says a Health Ministry official.

But the bad news is the gap between boys and girls using tobacco is narrowing and the overall prevalence of its use has remained static at 4.2 per cent of the adolescents surveyed.

“Smoking dipped in north and south India, but what’s pushed up the national average is the increase in current smoking trend in the
central, eastern and north-eastern region.”

Increase in smoking among 13-15 year olds was the highest in the northeast —up from 11.2 per cent to 18.2 per cent. The highest drop was in north India — from 4.9 per cent to 1.5 per cent — and in central, from 4.8 per cent to 1.2 per cent.

The GYTS data from India includes five determinants of tobacco-control: availability and price, second-hand smoke, cessation, media and advertising and smoking messages in the school curriculum.

Over half the students surveyed said they had been taught about the dangers of tobacco use —increased risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, cancers, lung disease, miscarriages and impotence among others — at school.