Smoking on the rise among schoolgirls

KARACHI, Sept 26: A high incidence of smoking has been found among schoolgirls in the metropolis, according to a research study that recommends a complete ban on tobacco ads and strict enforcement of the anti-tobacco health ordinance.

The research study says the strategy has been proved successful in bringing down the rate of tobacco use in countries like the United Kingdom and Brazil.

The research study titled, Tobacco use among adolescent females in Pakistan, has been recently conducted by Dr Javaid A. Khan, Dr Suleman Haq and Dr Hammad Ganatra of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Department of Aga Khan University. The report will be published soon in the International Journal of TB and Lung Disease.

Under the survey, a sample of 644 girls attending grades 8 to 12 in government and private schools has been taken from Clifton, Gulshan-i-Iqbal and the PECHS.

The study shows that 16.3 per cent students smoked at least once in their life and 30-day prevalence of smoking was found in 6.4 per cent students. The research also refers to another study that puts the figure of smoking prevalence among adolescent schoolboys at 13.7 per cent.

Highest in South Asia

Comparing the prevalence of 6.4pc with the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS)-India, it was found higher than the figures reported in 13 out of 18 cities in India. Besides, the prevalence in Pakistan's coastal city was the highest among all other South Asian countries, including Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka, reported by the GYTS. According to the research report, 438 girls from private schools and 206 from government schools were surveyed. The mean age of students was calculated as 15.29. The number of smokers was found the highest in the age group of 15-year-old girls.

Started with a friend

The most popular first smoking companion was a friend, followed closely by a first-degree family member. The commonest mode of acquiring cigarettes was home, followed by borrowing from someone and purchasing from a shop near home.

Among 57 students, who tried buying cigarettes, less than half were refused due to their underage by the shopkeepers. The fact that majority of the students managed to buy cigarettes without any problem indicates that the relevant laws have been ineffective in controlling the sale of tobacco products to underage customers.

The commonest place for smoking was a friend's house. When asked if any of their family members was a smoker, around 41 per cent of the girls who smoke replied in the affirmative and put the blame on their fathers.

Ironically, the smokers had good knowledge about the hazards of tobacco and more than 80 per cent girls were already aware of the fact that smoking could cause oral cancer, asthma, chronic cough, lung cancer and oral sub-mucosal fibrosis.

Among the surveyed girls, twelve admitted that they used other drugs. Of them, 83 per cent said they first tried cigarettes.

A symbol of freedom

The report attributes high prevalence of smoking among adolescent females to western lifestyle, changing societal roles and attitudes towards women.

"Smoking among women which was once considered to be associated with loose character and immoral behaviour has now become a symbol of freedom for women in developing countries, partly due to the powerful yet subtle messages sent across by tobacco advertisements," it says.

It says that apparently tobacco companies have changed their marketing strategies by shifting their focus towards previously untapped markets in the developing world.

"For decades, the tobacco industry has successfully marketed its products to women in developed countries. But women and girls in Asia now represent the single largest product marketing opportunity in the world which can be easily exploited," it remarks. Referring to World Health Organization and GYTS findings, it underlines the need to counter the current tobacco advertising and marketing practices which are aimed at young women.

"These young females should be provided an alternative image of independence and self-confidence. At the same time, they should be educated about the effects of tobacco on health, particularly reproductive," the study adds.

Popularity of Sheesha

Another important factor, the study identifies, may be the increasing popularity of Sheesha (flavoured tobacco smoked in water pipes). Studies have shown that there is a common belief among people that Sheesha is less injurious to health as compared to cigarettes, which might lead to higher rates of tobacco consumption in this form. Dawn

Your Comments

"wat is the demerits of smoking among girls? it is true that the blood pressure become low of girls smokers and harmonies level become high."
Name: shoaib
City, Country: karachi, Pakistan



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