When teen years go up in smoke

Bengaluru: Despite efforts by the government and various social organizations in bringing down use of tobacco among the population, a study in the Lancet journal reveals that on an average 70% of children, aged between 12 and 15 years, in the country are prone to smoking.

The Government measures include 85% of graphic pictorial warning on cigarette packs and other tobacco products, higher duties on cigarettes and a ban on smoking in educational institutes, government offices and hospitals. An anti-tobacco advertisement was also produced and was regularly screened at the cinema theatres and on television.

Siddarath (name changed), a class 10 student, said, "My elder brothers used to smoke and I just wanted to try one day. After that I occasionally smoke whenever I feel stressed and I have some friends also who smoke."

The study also shows that over 50% of children had tried smoking before the age of 11. Nagasimha G. Rao, director, Child Rights Trust (CRT) said, 
"We find many migrant adolescents are smokers, when we rescue them. Many of them think smoking and other drugs are alternative for hunger. Some children also have this urge to try it for once; some of them don't continue, but most of them make it a habit."According to World Health Orgainsation (WHO), smoking kills over seven million people each year.

Even though the government has strictly warned the shopkeepers not to sell tobacco to children, many continue to do so fearing loss of business.
"For most children, it's the peer pressure that leads them towards this. Also whether the parents smoke or not plays a role as well, so they need to be careful," said Nagasimha.

He also said the CRT has started a campaign "banni gayleyarannu rakshisona" (come let's protect your friends) to make schools drug free across the city by asking their friends to take their responsibility.

Dr Santhosh, a pulmonologist, said, "Smoking at the young age increases the risk of many diseases including respiratory illness, reduction in pulmonary functions and also adds to the risk of lung cancer."

A senior official from Health and Family Welfare said the government has taken several measures to emphasize the importance of harmful effect of tobacco. "There is also an anti-tobacco cell which keeps a regular watch on selling of tobacco products to under-aged children. Those found violating the law will be severely punished," said senior official

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