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Fortis Healthcare Study Highlights the Need to Change the Youth’s Perception about Smoking

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.
1900 students were randomly chosen from six states, Delhi/NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru,Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kolkata and Chennai, to be a part of the study. They were asked to fill in a structured survey which contained 13 questions. The results were tabulated using statistical measures and revealed patterns from which inferences were drawn. These inferences are of value because they can be used as evidence to formulate policy frameworks and regulatory mechanisms to control smoking 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.<
Key Findings 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 possible addiction to smoking.

Media: Through its various platforms, media can play an important role in promoting or dissuading young boys and girls from smoking. Young minds are extremely impressionable and the media can play a pivotal role in encouraging risky behavior by making smoking seem stylish. Therefore, the need for media literacy needs to be highlighted amongst the youth.
Peer Pressure: Peer Pressure can cause youngsters to pick up the habit of smoking at a young age. This is because there is a need to impress others and stay 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 behavior without thinking of the consequences. Teenagers need to be counselled about peer pressure and how they can handle it in a positive and pragmatic manner.
Parents: Parents need to take on a supportive role. They need to develop a trusting rapport with the adolescent. They must not be patronizing in their approach. Penalizing the child often doesn’t lead anywhere either. Instead engaging with the adolescent is important so that he or she can take on the responsibility of seeking professional help and counselling to overcome their addiction.
Professional Help: Professional help is irreplaceable, and addictive behaviours do not change abruptly, but through a series of stages. Support and motivation are a very important part of a successful recovering addict, and once a person has developed a dependence on a substance, there almost always remains a danger of relapse. Counseling in such a scenario for the recovering addict as well as the family is very useful.
Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, FortisHealthcare said, “Understanding that there is a problem which needs to be addressed is the first step towards overcoming tobacco addiction. Smoking is plaguing the society and we are moving into an era where it is acceptable for younger age groups to begin smoking and engage in other risky behavior. This will only lead to the early onset of lifestyle related diseases and therefore we need to promote adequate training and empowerment of any caregiver who actively works with children to ensure that early identification and timely intervention take place. In order to wage a war against tobacco use, one must be fully equipped with adequate knowledge about how tobacco can affect the mind and body. The support system of anyone overcoming addiction must realize that the power of psychological dependence is extremely strong and can only be broken by taking small incremental steps over a period.”
The department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at FHL has also taken an initiate towards helping recognizing children with mental disorders. According to WHO statistics place the prevalence of mental health problems in children and adolescents at 20%. Considering 1 in 5 children are affected with some mental health problem, it attests to the need of identifying those who are impacted by it. There is strong evidence that supports and suggests the importance of early identification given that mental health illnesses occurring at a young age are in general considered to be a poor prognostic factor as it also makes the child or adolescent more vulnerable to having a larger number of repeated 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 which looks at helping adults easily identify the presence of a mental health problem as it emerges and provides a step-by-step process through which the problem can begin to be tackled before one reaches an expert.