A Smoky Affair

Vipul works with a call centre in New Delhi. He works from 10 pm to 6 am. The back to back calls exhaust him no end. He revives himself in the small four breaks he gets daily by drowning himself in a sea of smoke. Each puff takes him into another world of make believe where he feels he is dealing with his boredom and fatigue.

This is just one of the myriad stories of young chain smokers. Smoking kills. Yet smoking is almost a cult especially among youngsters. What is it about smoking that people find irresistible? Amit, a 25 years old chain smoker admits, “I took my first puff in class 10th at the insistence of my friends. Though I did not enjoy it much I would do it with friends as I did not want to appear uncool. With time it became a habit and now I can’t do without it.” Most students start smoking in school like Amit because of sheer peer pressure.

The same sentiment finds echo in a lot of others. Egged on by friends, giving in to temptation is something we all can relate to. Says Meera, a young housewife: “There is a certain coolness quotient attached to things like smoking and drinking and at a young and impressionable age it is easy to get hooked.” Also for the youth cigarettes are affordable as one need not buy a whole pack but just a few loose cigarettes for daily consumption. The market currently is flooded with numerous brands and caters to every kind of budget.

For many like Amit or Vipul, smoking is more than just lighting up a cigarette. It is also a stress buster and is often an easy escape route from drudgery. Tina, a 21 year old college student says: “Smoking helps me de stress. Its like sort of a friend whom I turn to whenever I want. It might be psychological but I definitely feel better. All my worries just blow away in the smoke.” Most people know that smoking does not give a high like alcohol or give a high so they condition themselves into thinking that it makes them feel better.

Health hazards related to smoking are many yet not many are ready to quit. Perhaps, this is due to lack of proper knowledge. An important thing to keep in mind here is that unlike drinking and substance abuse, smoking does not have any immediate after effect. One gets tipsy or high after consuming alcohol and after smoking up people get stoned. These often deter people from becoming addicts but in case of smoking there are no after effects immediately. The visible effects of continued smoking are nicotine deposits on teeth and that too after many years.

Rohan, a 27 years old engineer, working with a software company says: “The problem with people not being able to quit smoking despite all the heath hazards is because there is no guarantee of a disease though chances might be high. Just because I might have throat cancer after ten years I can’t give up on smoking. Why care about it from now.”

In India, a staggering 2000 people die of smoking everyday. The Health Minister has been quoted saying that almost 40% of deaths are caused by tobacco related diseases and two thirds due to smoking, junk food and drug abuse. The Ministry of Health imposed a nationwide ban on smoking from October 2nd 2008. It is now illegal to smoke in shopping malls, cinema halls, work places, hotels, banquet halls, discotheques, canteens, coffee houses, pubs, bars, airport lounges and the railway station. Smoking on roads and at home is permitted. The fine for violating the law is Rs. 200. Whether this ban which is poorly enforced will lessen the rising number of deaths remains to be seen. Even though the democracy in India affords us the freedom to do what we please, there is a reason euthanasia isn’t still legal. One thing is certain: Smoking kills.
Niha Masih

[Image Source] http://www.flickr.com/photos/davic/3023413089/