Smoking trends in Kashmir: quit before it kills you

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Smoking trends in Kashmir: quit before it kills you

J&K has a smoking rate of 23.7%, a smoking rate of 20.8%, and a smokeless smoking rate of 4.3%

posted on August 24, 2022 | Author DR. GUL SHAFIQA



The consumption of tobacco and other related products is witnessing a drastic increase all over the world and India is no exception. However, what is staggering are the numbers that are continually under the influence of smoking. According to the 2016-17 GATS (Global Adult Tobacco Survey), J&K has a smoking rate of 23.7%, a smoking rate of 20.8%, and a smokeless smoking rate of 4.3%. Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla are the three regions of Kashmir that spend the most money annually on tobacco products. At least for the past 30 years, efforts to deter people, especially adolescents, from smoking have focused almost solely on school-based cessation interventions. This strategy is partly based on the fact that almost all smokers start smoking even around the age of 18. The relevance of this method, as well as common misconceptions about adult smoking behaviors, are challenged by studies of current trends in youth smoking in Kashmir.

Smoking habits among young people may not be as set in stone as previously believed. A fifth of current smokers started smoking after the age of 18, which is a significant increase from previous standards, according to a recent survey. Tobacco industry statistics show that this transition from the first cigarette to a “confirmed” smoker takes place over several years, which can last until the age of 25. The percentage of adolescents in Kashmir who smoke only on rare occasions appears to be larger than the fraction of older smokers, with significant changes in daily and non-daily use. Smoking cessation and behavioral changes are on the rise, but there is insufficient evidence to say whether or not this is a permanent change, especially in Kashmir. Following substantial life changes, young people may exhibit a wide range of smoking habits. Smoking may become more appealing to adolescent and young adult smokers due to frequent disruptions in their personal and social networks, as well as in their living and working conditions.

During these transition years, the comforting impact of the peer group and the relative stability in life are replaced by the emergence of one’s individual, societal and professional aspirations. Throughout adolescence, smoking may be intended to bring a person closer to their key peer group. For adults, it can help ease the tension that comes with chasing dreams. Smoking, for a young adult, can accomplish both of these functions, providing a tangible balance amidst the chaos and bustle of adult life in Kashmir. Therefore, young individuals may be more vulnerable to tobacco company advertising as they progress into adulthood. Smoking initiation and exploration are just two of the phases the tobacco industry has designed to help smokers progress from novice to regular. Tobacco companies have done a tremendous job of getting their ads in front of young people where they go to work and hang out. Cigarette companies are increasingly turning to mainstream information and unstructured marketing strategies to reach young people and avoid advertising bans. Evidence from several sources shows that advertising and promotions aimed at young adults continue to affect young people.

Subsequent evaluation should focus on young people, who may offer the greatest possibility of future reductions in recidivism. For young people, the same elements that promote their receptivity to pro-tobacco messages are also a source of opportunities to avoid and quit smoking. There are several reasons why smoking cessation efforts are not as effective as they could be; including the fact that many young people are not ready to quit until their late teens or early twenties.

Tobacco control advocates should take tobacco industry recommendations more seriously. Young adult smokers have been the primary factor in the rise and fall of every leading brand and company over the past 50 years. The cigarette industry will suffer the same fate as a population that will cease to reproduce if young people refuse to smoke.

(The author is postdoctoral fellow, University of Kashmir)

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