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22 Aug 2019, Edition - 1500, Thursday

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Health Matters

50% youngsters believe that smoking reduces stress but it is exactly the other way round

Indrani Thakurata

Image credit : Illustrative Image

Tensed before taking an exam-smoke your way to ease, tensed before meeting someone close in a hospital-ease yourself with a smoke, stressed about a meeting in office- a quick smoke break is essential–that’s broadly how we youngsters, who are addicted to smoke work. But that’s exactly the reason why most of us who want to quit aren’t able to, the perception that smoking reduces stress is a dangerous perception. And no wonder, we have an ever increasing number of youngsters becoming smokers–because it reduces stress. Yes, according to a survey, over 50 per cent of teenagers in India smoke cigarettes because they believe that a puff helps reduce stress. The survey was carried out by engaging with 1900 teenagers from six states, Delhi/NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kolkata and Chennai to assess the prevalent attitudes towards tobacco smoking. And buoy! The results are alarming. And the government has some serious task at hand of changing perception.

WHO, World Health Organisation numbers claim that smoking takes away over seven million people each year. “My father who has been a chain smoker for almost 20 years of his life has severe breathing issues. He needs oxygen mask every now and then. He makes regular visits to the hospital,” says Shanka Chakraborty. He adds, “90% of smokers end up with lung cancer, COPD or heart problems. I have seen him take smoke breaks whenever he used to be tensed. This was during his younger days. My friends do the same now, and that’s what hooks them. But because I see my father suffering, I refrain from this momentary pleasure. You can’t wish away your worries with smoke rings afterall.”

Adding to the same line of thought, Dr Mukut Bhowmik says, “The number of smokers are on the increase. Women have taken to smoking in a big way. The reasons are many. Some are influenced by actors. Some feel they look cool doing so. And some feel that their concentration increases with smoking. So it is time that we kill such myths surrounding it.”

Going deep into the subject, Dr Anupama Verma, Clinical Psychologist says, “Cigarettes contain nicotine, a psychoactive (mood altering) drug. When a person smokes, nicotine reaches the brain in about eight seconds and causes increased release of a chemical called dopamine which leads to the feeling of pleasure and relaxation, a sensation the body craves again and again.

However, as you perceive this as relaxation, the body is actually experiencing increased stress. The blood pressure and heart rate increases, muscles become tense and less oxygen is available to the body and brain.

Smoking does not actually relieve stress. In fact, it cause more tension and anxiety.” She adds,

“The short term stress relief you get from smoking comes from the act of taking time out of the stressful situation to smoke a cigarette and from the chemical actions of nicotine in your brain. The moment you finish your cigarette and return to the situation that caused stress, it doesn’t take long before the tension comes back and you need another cigarette making you an addict in no time.”

She concludes, “Stress is a part of life. There’s no way to avoid stress completely, but we can change how we work through stressful events, situations, and emotions. While there is no one right way to work through stress, there are negative and positive methods to overcome stress. It is important to use positive methods that improve our health and well-being and to find what works for us personally when faced with stress.”

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