Rising trend of smoking among women to be future challenge: Doctors

at 8:12 pm
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New Delhi: An increasing trend of smoking has been found among urban female population which is worrisome and may present itself as a public health challenge in another 15-20 years in India, doctors of Gurugram-based Artemis Hospital have warned.

While smoking among males may have been impacted by a stigma attached to it, among women, the practice is still considered fashionable and a symbol of superiority over peers.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the world.

Its usage is widely prevalent among males in one form or the other.

Out of the top five cancers of males found in India, four are caused by tobacco, making it a massive public health challenge, according to the doctors.

“Tobacco-related diseases, such as lung and head-and-neck cancer, have been almost the exclusive preserve of the males till now.

“But the way the number of female smokers has increased drastically in the last 10-15 years, we may see a massive increase in the incidence of these diseases among women as well, over the next two decades in India,” according to Dr. Vineet Govinda Gupta, Sr Consultant, Medical Oncology at Artemis Hospital.

He said there is a lag period of 10 to 20 years for the ill effects of smoking to present its symptoms in the tobacco-consuming population like smokers and paan-masala chew.

“Today, a large number of urban females in their 20s and residing in the metros and Tier 1 cities have taken to smoking cigarettes. In these females, the effect of smoking will manifest in their late 40s and 50s,” the doctor said.

“The worrying trend of increased tobacco usage by urban female population is now a major concern for India,” added Dr. Biswajyoti Hazarika, Chief – Head and Neck Surgery, Surgical Oncology, Artemis Hospital.

“It is going to be a public health crisis over the coming two decades, as these patients develop all the health risk associated with tobacco usage,” Hazarika said.

“Till now, female tobacco related cancer was mostly seen in the rural population due to usage of Indian forms of tobacco like the hookah or beedi, but in recent times it has been observed that cigarette smoking is on rise among the urban females,” the doctor said.

“At present, we do not see many cases of lung cancer or head-and-neck cancers in females due to tobacco use, but this is set to change in coming few years,” Dr Hazarika warned.

Dr. Priya Tiwari, Sr Consultant, Medical Oncology, said, “About 9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer and head-and-neck cancer are caused by tobacco in India.

“In addition, we also see cases of other tobacco-related cancers involving kidneys, pancreas, urinary bladder, stomach, liver and even blood cancer. We are witnessing an increased number of cancers patients in our OPD and often, patient history reveals a strong history of tobacco usage.”

Dr. Shivanshu Raj Goyal, Consultant Respiratory, Pulmonology & Sleep Medicine, Artemis Hospital, said, “Unfortunately, India has seen only a marginal decline in the number of male smokers. At the same time, the habit of chewing tobacco is increasing, especially among youngsters, and more and more young women are taking to smoking.”

He advocated strict curbs on consumption of tobacco.

“There is an urgent need to create more awareness about the health hazards of tobacco, including better anti-smoking regulations targeted towards the youngsters,” he said.