Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) released a report that the number of women consuming tobacco products has doubled over 15 years. Tobacco consumption among men has remained in the range of 45-57% between 1995-96 and 2009-10 while the number has increased from 10% to 20% in women.
The rise in smokeless tobacco use and the promotional strategies of tobacco companies linking tobacco consumption to empowerment were the main reasons for the drastic increase.
Monika Arora, Director-health promotion division at PHFI, said, "This is an expected rise. India is a developing nation witnessing tremendous socio-economic development coupled with financial independence of women. The tobacco industry sees women as lucrative consumers waiting to be tapped at this point."
The impact of movies on tobacco use and the false notion that it is a sign of empowerment has urged women in both urban and as well as rural settings, Arora added. The latest National Family Health Survey and Global Adult Tobacco Survey (NFHS) also showed a significant rise in women consuming tobacco and supported the PHFI report.
Government officials as well as public health experts anticipate that even as increased taxes and government-run campaigns are expected to have brought down the rate of tobacco consumption among men, the tobacco use among women is likely to have increased further in the last five years.
In western countries, trends show men to be the first ones to start smoking with a gradual increase. In the second stage, women follow them. Males face morbidity and mortality in the third phase while the impact of tobacco consumption increases among women. In the last leg, though morbidity and mortality continue to rise due to rising trends in the previous phases consumption is generally on a decline between both sexes.