Kochi, August 23–A study that surveyedmore than 7,500 high school and higher secondary school students inErnakulam district has found that tobacco users are prone to poorer academic performance. It also proves that tobacco is a gateway drug, one that leads users to other potent drugs.
A high 76.3 per cent of lifelong tobacco users – those who had smoked or used smokeless tobacco throughout their life – had failed in a subject compared to 57 per cent of non-users. Further, 24.7 per cent of such users had failed a year of studies as against 9.1 per cent non-users.
The study also found that tobacco users had significantly higher usage rates of alcohol and illicit drugs. Alcohol use among lifelong tobacco users was found to be 67.8 per cent as compared to 11 per cent in non-users. In the case of illicit drugs, the rates of use were 33 per cent versus 6.1 per cent in tobacco users and non-users respectively.
These findings recently published in the prestigious Indian Journal of Medical Research are part findings of the larger study looking at psychological issues among adolescent school students, done by the Bengaluru-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS). The National Health Mission (Kerala) and the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Kerala also associated with the study.
In what could be good news to enforcement officials, the study reports decreasing trend of tobacco use among adolescent high school students compared to previous studies done among students in South India, and in Kannur district. In the survey, 6.9 per cent students reported having used tobacco in any form, with the proportion of males using tobacco being 12.5 per cent and females 1.2 per cent.
Most users still initiated early with the mean age of initiation among users being 14 years. Further, a majority of users (67 per cent) were using it hazardously in their school years signifying that they had a very high risk of progression to addiction.
Lead author Dr T.S. Jaisoorya said, “We took up the study to evaluate psychological issues among school going adolescents who often have multiple vulnerabilities. The prevalence of tobacco use and its negative outcomes among adolescents suggests that proactive intervention from teachers and parents is needed to check tobacco use among students. Measures need to be strengthened and continued to improve awareness of the wide variety of tobacco related harm and also ensure that ban of tobacco supply is strictly enforced near our educational institutions.”
“Policymakers can longer afford to see tobacco use as a problem of the past. It is as much a public health menace as alcohol and dangerous drug abuse. Any further delay in addressing the tobacco problem among the youth is opening up Kerala to a painful burden of a lifetime of lifestyle diseases,” commented Dr K.R. Thankappan, Emeritus Professor, AchuthaMenon Centre for Health Science Studies of the SreeChitra Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum.
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