-- Dipayan Mazumdar
As the world celebrates No-Smoking Day. Do you really think this day has any significance in our lives or is it just a gimmick. The ban on smoking at public places which was brought into effect by the former Union Health Minister A Ramdoss is nothing but a sham.
Rural India continues to be plagued by serious health problems due to lack of proper health facilities. We need to shift our focus to that area rather than chase people who are adults and are well aware about the harmful effects of smoking. As banning smoking has given rise to another fad that is hooka bars which are as lethal as smoking cigarettes.
Though, India may lose 2.5 million people an year by 2025, due to growing tobacco consumption that will prove to be a great hurdle to the country's economic growth, the irony remains that there are many whose survival depends on tobacco cultivation and sale. Many woman in Madhya pradesh run their families solely by making biddis.
Not only that numerous countries, including some of the poorest nations, such as Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania now face the prospect of seeing millions of jobs lost and a huge decline in the export of tobacco. Tobacco cultivation is critical for the economy in these countries and one of the few agricultural activities to have remained buoyant during the recent worldwide economic crisis. India is no exception to this reality
So rather focusing only on celebrating No-Smoking Day once a year or banning smoking in public places we should first search for alternative source of income for those involved in tobacco cultivation. We should create awareness amongst the youth and children at a very early age so that they do not succumb to this vice or seek pleasure by splurging in Hooka bars which are equally fatal.
The increasing craze among the common people to go in for Hookah smoking has become a cause of worry. People are of the belief that Hookah smoking is less toxic, as compared to cigarette. However, the reality is that it is equally lethal as the cigarette smoking. Infact, a single session of Hookah smoking, which usually lasts about 30-60 minutes, causes equivalent harm as a pack of cigarettes.
Hookah cafes are popping up all over the country (even in the smallest cities), and teens seem to be drawn to their exotic charm - which makes the hookah trend that much more dangerous. It is estimated that one in four young adults have used a hookah - a water pipe used to inhale flavored tobacco.
In India many young people seem to believe that hookahs and other water pipes are safer than cigarettes, but use of hookah is equally detrimental to a person's health as smoking cigarettes, said Dr. Purushottam Lal, chairman and chief interventional cardiologist of Metro Hospitals and Heart Institute.
Hookah was tremendously popular especially during Mughal rule.
The hookah has since become less popular; however, it is once again garnering the attention of the masses, and cafes and restaurants that offer it as a consumable are popular. The use of hookahs from ancient times in India was not only a custom, but a matter of prestige. Rich and landed classes would smoke hookahs.
Tobacco is smoked in hookahs in many villages as per traditional customs. Smoking a tobacco-molasses shisha is now becoming popular amongst the youth in India. There are several chain clubs, bars and coffee shops in India offering a wider variety of mu'assels, including non-tobacco versions.
"The popularity of water pipes may be due in part to perceptions that they are safer than cigarettes," Dr. Purushottam Lal, leading cardiologist and chairman of Metro Group of Hospitals said. A false belief among users is that the smoke from hookah is less dangerous than that of cigarettes. This is wrong! However since people think this is true, it gives a false sense of security and reduces concerns about true health effects.
According to studies, in a one-hour (1 hour) hookah session, users consume around 100 to 200 times the smoke and about 70 times the nicotine as they do in one cigarette. Water pipe smokers are seven times (7 times) more likely than non-smokers to show signs of gum disease and mouth cancer. Each hookah session (commonly referred to as "a sesh") consists of 50 to 200 inhalations that each range from 0.15 to 0.50 liters of smoke.
There are over 250 different kinds of Hookah flavors, and that number continues to rise. Hookah contains 69 different carcinogens.
"However, water pipe smoke contains nicotine, carbon monoxide, carcinogens and may contain greater amounts of tar and heavy metals than cigarette smoke," Dr. Lal warned.
On 31st May each year WHO celebrates World No Tobacco Day, highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce consumption. Tobacco use is the second cause of death globally (after hypertension) and is currently responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide.
A 2005 study found that water pipe smokers were five times more likely than non-smokers to show signs of gum disease. People who smoked water pipes had five times the risk of lung cancer as non-smokers.