Fortis Healthcare study highlights the need to change the youth’s perception about smoking

Bangalore, December 5th 2017: To understand the smoking habits of the youth and their perception of smoking, the Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, under the aegis of Dr. Samir Parikh, conducted a survey among adolescents. The team engaged and interacted with school going teenagers to assess the prevalent attitudes towards tobacco smoking.

1900students were randomly chosen from six states, Delhi/NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru,Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kolkata and Chennai, to be a part of the study. They wereasked to fill in a structured survey which contained 13 questions. The resultswere tabulated using statistical measures and revealed patterns from whichinferences were drawn. These inferences are of value because they can be usedas evidence to formulate policy frameworks and regulatory mechanisms to controlsmoking among the adolescents.

According tothe World Health Organization (WHO), smoking claims the lives of over 7 millionpeople each year. 6 million of these people die as a result of direct tobaccouse; while around 890 000 victims are non-smokers who have been repeatedlyexposed to second-hand smoke. In 2015, the WHO recorded that across the globe,1.1 billion people smoked tobacco. In India, 34.6% of adults (out of which47.9% is males and 20.3% is females) are smokers. The absolute number of malesmokers has grown from 79 million in 1998 to 108 million in 2015.

KeyFindings of the Study:

· 89%teenagers agreed that if it’s ok for their parents to smoke, then its ok forthem too.

· 87%teenagers believe that watching actors smoke in movies promotes smoking amongthe audience.

·  85% teenagers agree that it is okay to experiment with smoking at leastonce.

·  78%teenagers admitted knowing if anyone smokes in their school.

· 78%teenagers agree that celebrity figures featuring in anti-smoking campaignswould be helpful.

·75%teenagers feel that it is difficult to say “NO” to their friends or peers whenthey offer a cigarette.

·63%teenagers believe that disclaimers showing harmful consequences of smoking dohelp in its prevention.

· 53%teenagers think that smoking can help in reducing stress.

· 52%teenagers believe smoking helps increase concentration levels.

· 46%teenagers believed that theywould begin to smoke in efforts to appear ‘cool’ and mature among their peers.

·19%teenagers believe that talking to a counselor can help in preventing possibleaddiction to smoking.


·Media: Throughits various platforms, media can play an important role in promoting ordissuading young boys and girls from smoking. Young minds are extremelyimpressionable and the media can play a pivotal role in encouraging riskybehavior by making smoking seem stylish. Therefore, the need for media literacyneeds to be highlighted amongst the youth.

· PeerPressure: Peer Pressure can cause youngsters to pick up the habit ofsmoking at a young age. This is because there is a need to impress others andstay at par with what comes across as the latest trends in being ‘cool’ and‘fitting in’. Peer pressure can cause youngsters to engage in risky behaviorwithout thinking of the consequences. Teenagers need to be counselled aboutpeer pressure and how they can handle it in a positive and pragmatic manner.

·Parents: Parentsneed to take on a supportive role. They need to develop a trusting rapport withthe adolescent. They must not be patronizing in their approach. Penalizing thechild often doesn’t lead anywhere either. Instead engaging with the adolescentis important so that he or she can take on the responsibility of seekingprofessional help and counselling to overcome their addiction.

· ProfessionalHelp: Professional help is irreplaceable, and addictive behaviours donot change abruptly, but through a series of stages. Support andmotivation are a very important part of a successful recovering addict, andonce a person has developed a dependence on a substance, there almost alwaysremains a danger of relapse. Counseling in such a scenario for the recoveringaddict as well as the family is very useful.

Dr SamirParikh, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, FortisHealthcare said, “Understanding that there is a problem which needs to be addressed is thefirst step towards overcoming tobacco addiction. Smoking is plaguing thesociety and we are moving into an era where it is acceptable for younger agegroups to begin smoking and engage in other risky behavior. This will only leadto the early onset of lifestyle related diseases and therefore we need topromote adequate training and empowerment of any caregiver who actively workswith children to ensure that early identification and timely intervention takeplace. In order to wage a war against tobacco use, one must be fully equippedwith adequate knowledge about how tobacco can affect the mind and body. Thesupport system of anyone overcoming addiction must realize that the power ofpsychological dependence is extremely strong and can only be broken by takingsmall incremental steps over a period.”

Thedepartment of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at FHL has also taken aninitiate towards helping recognizing children with mental disorders. Accordingto WHO statistics place the prevalence of mental health problems in childrenand adolescents at 20%. Considering 1 in 5 children are affected withsome mental health problem, it attests to the need of identifying those who areimpacted by it. There is strong evidence that supports and suggests theimportance of early identification given that mental health illnesses occurringat a young age are in general considered to be a poor prognostic factor as italso makes the child or adolescent more vulnerable to having a larger number ofrepeated episodes in the future.

Keeping inmind these aspects the book Let Him Not Sink: First Steps to MentalHealth, A Manual for Adults, who Work Closely with Children and Adolescents,has been written by Dr. Samir Parikh and Ms. Kamna Chhibber whichlooks at helping adults easily identify the presence of a mental health problemas it emerges and provides a step-by-step process through which the problem canbegin to be tackled before one reaches an expert.

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