Over 16 per cent of college students in the district smoke cigarettes or beedis, per a recent study conducted by the Government Medical College here.
Significantly, the study – which sampled 402 students aged 15-24 at two randomly selected colleges in the district – found that 35.4 per cent of the students were daily smokers. Cigarettes were the most favoured tobacco product, with 72.3 per cent of smokers using it.
The age of first initiation to cigarettes was as low as seven years, found the study titled ‘Prevalence and determinants of substance abuse among youth in Central Kerala, India’ published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health.
After obtaining official sanction from college authorities and taking the informed consent of students, researchers from the Department of Community Medicine provided a self-administered questionnaire to the volunteer participants. It posed questions on various socio-demographic characteristics: age, education level and occupation of parents, type and frequency of tobacco use, among others.
The participating students said that 46 per cent of their friends, 29.9 per cent of relatives, and 24.4 per cent of parents used one or the other form of substances.
“We found that 96.1 per cent of students were aware of the health consequences of substance abuse. Under these circumstances, the society has to come together to prevent youngsters from inculcating these unhealthy habits. Also monitoring, both at the college or university level and at the district level through forums such as District Development Councils, has to be strengthened,” said Dr. Rini Raveendran, currently Assistant Professor in Community Medicine at Govt Medical College, Manjeri and one of the study’s co-authors.
Encouragingly, the study found that 83.6 per cent of the students surveyed favoured the ban on smoking in public places. Section 4 of the Indian tobacco control law COTPA (2003) expressly prohibits smoking in public places, including educational institutions.
The World Health Organisation has said that there is no safe threshold to tobacco smoke exposure and advocated creating 100 per cent smoke-free environments. Being 100 per cent smoke-free requires creating environments where tobacco smoke cannot be seen, smelled, sensed, or measured. This extends to the presence of cigarette or beedi butts and ash.
In view of the massive burden that tobacco use causes to development, the World Health Organisation has given a call to observe World No Tobacco Day on 31 May 2017 on the theme ‘Tobacco: A Threat to Development’.
Lead author and Retired HoD Dr. Lucy Raphael and Assistant Professor Dr. Sajna M.V., Community Medicine, Govt Medical College, Thrissur also collaborated in the study.