Studies reveal the growing number of female smokers in valley


18th November 2014

Banners reading ‘Tobacco free zone’, greets everyone near city’s reputed colleges and schools, but girls from the same colleges are among the regular users of these substance claims a recent study.

A study carried out in various colleges of the valley reveals that six per cent of girls smoke or use tobacco. 

“A total of 6 per cent girls smoke or are addicted to tobacco,” study claims.

In 2010, Dr Adbul Majeed and his team started examining students in colleges and came up with results in 2012. In the sample of 15000 students that fall in almost the same age group were examined during the study. 

Dr Majeed is a retired Cardio-vascular specialist from Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical College maintains: “In our study we examined college students across the valley and it was found that a total of the students of both the genders, six per cent girls smoke and 36 per cent males.”

The study was conducted across the colleges and schools falling in and around Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla, and Reasi districts of valley.

Smoking or tobacco use is a big problem where anti-tobacco legislation is weak, as valley becomes an open market for all these goods.

After landing into a big crowd of girls in the college, Zainab an introvert could not find a single person to talk. 

"I felt isolated and wanted to cope with the sudden change in the environment.”

To deal with the stress of her family and mates she began to smoke.

Like Zainab many girls in colleges try smoking and experts believe that this is the biggest reason for the increase in smokers.

“Peer pressure in schools and colleges tempts students especially girls to give it a try,” says Dr Arshid a leading psychologist of the valley.

“Smoking spreads from peer to peer, and different people have different reasons to smoke; girls also do it for experimental purposes like boys do,” he adds.

Hinting towards the growing number of addicts the doctor blamed the degrading moral values of the society.

“Current surge is because of decrease in socio-economic values and monkey imitation of the western life style, reflection of the west.”

Young girls going to colleges and schools fall prey to these habits in one way or another.

“I wanted to smoke and know how it feels to inhale and exhale it,” says Urfee, currently studying in Delhi.

“Smoking among women is still considered as a taboo here. It shows the narrow mindedness of the people here while the same thing looks cool outside the state.” she remarks.

Anti-tobacco activists say the nation's health that is at risk from the tobacco companies' new push, and the cheap tricks applied by these companies to lure people.

“Cunning strategy used by the tobacco industry nullifies the gains of the awareness programs,” Dr Majeed adds.

“In a general assessment of the trends of smokers among the tribal girls, it was found that they got tempted by the fancy looking packets and thus used it,” it came out as an observation during the study.

At the heart of the problem lies a conflict of interest within the government but certain NGOs are trying to make things difficult for the smokers.

“Poor people do not have money and that is why we are trying to raise the price of these goods by increasing value added taxes from 12 to 40 per cent,” says A.M Mir, a Project Executive Director VHAI.

Over a period of two years the NGO claims to have banned Gutka sale in the valley.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Health is preparing to introduce tighter controls on smoking. It is working with regional anti-smoking groups to improve its health awareness programmes and plug regulatory loopholes. Campaigners say there's still widespread ignorance about the practice.

Zoon Bibi, 63 from a remote village of Uri, has smoked Jijeer (a traditional pipe, which earlier was abide by every household but it began to diminish with the introduction of novel ways of smoking) almost throughout her life. But she now intends to quit because of breathing difficulties.

"I only learnt later that smoking is injurious," says Zoon, who is now undergoing treatment in the oncology section in SKIMS.

According to experts, smoking among females is not new to the valley.

“It has been happening since in various forms and shapes,” Dr Majid adds.

“Jijeer- a traditional hukah was present in every household and it was equally used by men and women, but now over the years there has been a sharp decline in the Jijeer smokers as it slightly slipped out of houses.”

In a study by the VHAI, “35 per cent  men and 66 per cent women smoke but I think the number is more as they do not reveal it openly” A.M Mir.

Talking about the rehabilitation or education of women in this regard the doctors say, “Women do not smoke publicly and hence do not seek any rehabilitation.”

As such there has been no concrete study to access the trend in smoking among females in the state.

It is only those who are under severe addiction or are undergoing psychiatric treatment, they only were examined for this purpose.