Public smoking ban helps rein in habit

Sanchita Sharma

New Delhi, May 31 -- Ban on smoking in public and shared spaces has made it an inconvenient addiction, deterring young, working professionals from lighting up.

A Fortis Healthcare survey of people working with MNCs in Delhi and NCR has found that 43% of the 3,673 men and 14% of the 1,327 women surveyed were smokers. But only 27% people under 35 smoked, as compared to almost half (48%) of those aged 35 or more.

Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said that ban on smoking in public spaces is an effective deterrent.

"Things that do work are pictorial warnings, ban on advertising, and smoke-free public places," he said.

Elaborating on the reasons why people smoke, Dr Samir Parikh, director of the department of mental health at Fortis Healthcare, said: "Peer pressure is a significant factor, followed by myths such as smoking's stress-relieving and memory-enhancing effects."

Across ages, more than two in three first smoked before they turned 21. More than half the people surveyed had started smoking because people around them were smoking or because a friend asked them to do so.

Interestingly, 73% people surveyed thought pictorial warnings were a deterrent, with four in five (81%) supporting warnings being run through smoking scenes in film and television because they believe watching actors smoke made people want to light up.

The most shocking finding was that 17% of the smokers surveyed did not believe smoking damaged health, with 27% admitting that they had never tried to quit smoking.

Moreover, making workplaces smoke-free has had a domino effect, with people banned from smoking at work in India smoking less inside their homes, reported a joint study by Imperial College London and PHFI in Tobacco Control, a part of the British Medical Journal.

The study found that 64% adults who work in smoke-free environments live in smoke-free homes, compared with 42% of those who work where smoking is permitted.

Half of current tobacco users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease, says the World Health Organisation. Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people a year worldwide - one death every six seconds.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.