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Smoking among women in India

The third edition of the Tobacco Atlas released in Dublin by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation says that more women in India are turning smokers and oral users of tobacco. India has the third highest number of female tobacco users in the world. Of the estimated 11.9 million female consumers of tobacco in India 5.4 million smoke it and rest chews the leaves. Tobacco in any form is life threatening and is considered health hazard.

According to the report world wide tobacco consumption could kill six million people in 2010 and one third of those people would die of cancer. About 25% of smokers die or become ill during their most productive years, adversely impacting families as well as economies. Earlier Tobacco killed more men than women but this is slowly changing as smoking rates are increasing among women in many countries including India and particularly among young women. The gap between tobacco death rates between men and women is closing. Female smokers in India are dying eight years earlier than their non-smoking peer group.

Smoking creates health problems among women especially reproductive health .It not only adversely affect the health of eggs produced ;it could compromise the health of the expectant mother and the foetus.It is true for passive smokers as well. Tobacco consumers are more vulnerable to disease especially cancer and particularly lung cancer.

There are many factors leading to increase in women smoking. Smoking dulls the appetite and is seen as convenient and easy way of following diet plan to help weight loss. In rural areas by default women catch the smoking habit as they are required to light their husband’s hukkas .Some women smoke beedis as past time.

Indian government should do more public awareness campaigns. The other ways would be more stringent legislation, high pricing and pictorial warnings on cigarette packs.

On current trends the goal of halving hunger would not be until 2035, 40 countries would have equal enrolments for boys and girls until after 2025 and current progress in cutting maternal mortality rates was less than 1/5th of what was needed to meet the goal. The total number of HIV/AIDS infections in 2007 was 33 million-the highest ever.
According to Action Aid discussions at the UN and this year’s meeting of the G-8 industrial nations in Japan would only succeed if they started with the recognition that the development emergency is first and foremost an emergency for women and girls. The lack of progress on maternal health shows people’s lives are at stake.

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