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Updated: January 5, 2010 16:29 IST

‘More and more girls taking to tobacco use’

Bindu Shajan Perappadan
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A woman smoking a cigarette. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh
The Hindu,/ Business Line A woman smoking a cigarette. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

The gap between prevalence of tobacco abuse among male and female adolescents in India is fast narrowing and more and more girls are taking to tobacco use, warns a new study by non-government organisation Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY).

Conducted in collaboration with the University of Texas, US, the study revealed the psycho-social risk profiles of boys and girls and highlighted that girls are far more vulnerable to tobacco advertising compared to boys.

HRIDAY director Monika Arora said: “An alarming and worrisome finding in this study is that the differential in prevalence of tobacco use between boys and girls is much smaller than that between adult males and females in India.”

Peer/advertising pressure

“Almost all tobacco advertising imagery includes women, taking advantage of the changing position of women in society and their increasing socio-economic independence. As a result many educated young women perceive smoking as a symbol of liberation and freedom from traditional gender roles. Peer and advertising pressure encourages even knowledgeable women to smoke,” she added.

Dr. Melissa Stigler, the US-based co-investigator on the study, noted that in India tobacco use is ten times more common among adults males compared with adult females. Among adolescents, however, the prevalence of tobacco use among boys and girls is about the same. This does not bode well for the emerging tobacco epidemic in this country. Young girls especially are at high risk.

According to the study, 21.1 per cent boys have ever used tobacco as against 14.7 per cent girls. Lead author and doctoral student at the Harvard School of Public Health, Amenah A. Babar, noted: “As a leader in global tobacco prevention, India faces many challenges in addressing the tobacco epidemic that has affected one of its most vulnerable populations -- India’s children.’’

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