‘Muzire sehat che yaad tawhtow, cigratte tamoquiz daakh kartuov, Cansaras zyaadi pahaan daavat dewaan, muzire sehat che yaad tawhtow’
These startling words were narrated by traditional Kashmiri Laddi Shah cautioning people of Kashmir about the harmful impact of smoking tobacco.
The awareness on No Tobacco Day by traditional ways have been instrumental in taking health messages of public importance to nook and corner of valley in subtle sarcastic and joyful way attracting people of all age groups and making them understand the importance of such days.
Tobacco consumption in rural areas is high, unreported and catastrophic given the level of awareness, health facilities and poor referral pathway that ignores the initial treatable warning signs.
People often don’t recognise the immediate effects of consuming tobacco and this ignorance and inadequacy befalls them in later stages of life.
One of the major problems is Nicotine dependence that actually is underlying factor that a person who smokes once or twice can’t get rid of this unhealthy habit.
Its pleasing effect on brain and its increased half life that makes nicotine remain for longer time in your blood and that is what makes you reach for another cigarette.
Gradually and unknowingly a person develops an insatiable urge to consume tobacco in one or other form and that develops nicotine dependence and it continues even after ones failed attempts to try to give up this habit in personal capacity.
I often hear people saying I gave up smoking for few days to few month but then resumed again. This is neither an excuse nor falsification but signs of nicotine dependency that is alarmingly very high in smokers.
Symptoms of nicotine addiction are closely related to symptoms of nicotine dependence like increased urge to smoke, irritability if trying to withdraw, social alienation, aggressive behavior, isolation and increased cravings in mornings after you wake up.
According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, India is home to second largest tobacco users in the world and of these 13 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
Ten lakh deaths are due to smoking, with over 2,00,000 due to second-hand smoke exposure, and over 35,000 are due to smokeless tobacco use.
Another study conducted by SKIMS on tobacco use among school going adolescents of district Srinagar showed 12.8 % males and 8.2% of females tried or smoked tobacco and those who smoked had their closest friends smoking as well. They also opined that students lack knowledge about consequences of tobacco use and the dependence grows along to prove detrimental in following years of life.
One of the reasons that public awareness and outreach becomes necessary and schools become important stakeholders that must be involved to nip this menace.
Syed Mujtaba, mental health expert with IMHANS Kashmir is of opinion, “I see Cigarette Smoking as a Public Health Hazard. Even Though the law is clear about it, and Smoking being completely banned in public places and workplaces such as educational, government facilities and on public transport. But it's implementation is a big issue”.
“Smoking is a gateway to other drugs, and from my field work experience at IMHANS, our school/college students are mostly involved in this and their vulnerability is increasing day by day .”
Prevention of tobacco use in schools should be considered as a matter of great concern which requires holistic understanding and action from all stakeholders involved. The complications arising of tobacco usage are enormous ranging from oral cancer throat cancer lung cancer to pulmonary diseases, infertility, heart ailments to many others.
The prevention and treatment is step wise, gradual and multi dimensional. Addressing physical and behavioural aspects of person consuming nicotine in one or other form to using therapeutic treatment regimes, counseling sessions and also making him mentally aware and socially strong enough to combat this to serve as template for others. Lack of facilities especially oral health experts, counselors, and drug de-addiction centres particularly in rural districts of our UT have stalled this whole phenomenon.
Impact of tobacco usage on our society, particularly among our youth, is huge and it is one of the basic reasons of social disintegration and disharmony. Professional approach ,especially one trusted internationally called as Theory of Triadic Influence which requires interpersonal, social and environmental streams to come together to help combat this menace.
Also a glimmer of hope by Waqf Boards decision to start a Cancer Hospital equipped with modern facilities in J&K wherein people of all the communities will be treated without any discrimination is equally encouraging and strong step towards prevention of cancers caused by tobacco and its usage.
The author is MDS Oral Maxilo-Facial Surgery
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.