World No Tobacco Day: Hookah & e-cigs, the dangerous addiction youth need to worry about
As per health experts, Chandigarh was declared the first smoke-free city of India in 2007 but has lost its status over time
Health experts in the city are sounding the alarm over the startling rise in addiction among the youth with hookah and e-cigarettes taking center stage. With an increasing number of young individuals falling prey to the allure of hookah and e-cigarettes, health authorities have been voicing their worries about the long-term consequences of substance abuse.
As per health experts, Chandigarh was declared the first smoke-free city of India in 2007 but has lost its status over time. To commemorate World No Tobacco Day 2023, a webinar was organised by virtual resource centre for tobacco control (e-RCTC), PGIMER, on Wednesday. Every year the day is observed on May 31 around the globe.
Dr Jagdish Kaur, the regional advisor for the tobacco-free initiative at the World Health Organization, emphasised the importance of supply-side interventions to achieve the tobacco endgame in India.
The event highlighted the importance of providing viable alternatives to tobacco growers and protecting the environment. The Centre has already shifted a significant amount of land from tobacco farming to alternative crops, added Dr Jagdish.
Other countries like Sri Lanka, Egypt and Kenya were cited as examples of successful tobacco endgame strategies in the webinar.
According to Dr Sonu Goel, director of e-RCTC, hookah typically contains tobacco and a 45-minute hookah session is said to be equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes. Under the Environmental Hazardous Act and Insecticide Act, it is classified as an insecticide due to its high nicotine content.
The e-cigarettes have 95% nicotine and are considered equally hazardous.
Responding to these concerns, the Union issued a groundbreaking notification, prohibiting the serving of hookah in restaurants and bars across the city in a Gazette notification issued on May 15.
Up to three years imprisonment for serving Hookah
In a recent order, serving hookah in Chandigarh will now lead to up to three years in prison. As such, no person, either on their own or on behalf of any other person, can open or run a hookah bar or serve hookah at any place in the city. In case of violation, the violator will be punished with imprisonment up to three years, but not less than one year. A fine of up to ₹50,000, but not less than ₹20,000, will also be imposed.
Effective strategies for quitting smoking
According to Dr Goel, quitting smoking is possible at home, and three out of 10 people have successfully quit on their own. Having a supportive companion throughout the quitting journey is crucial. There are two methods of quitting: cold turkey and gradual method.
In both cases, individuals need to prepare for cravings in advance and remove smoking cues. Withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, restlessness, anxiety and constipation may occur, but engaging in other activities can help. It is important to maintain and refrain from smoking for at least six weeks with strong motivation and desire, he added.
For those who struggle to quit on their own, Dr Goel recommends nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as counselling alone may not be sufficient. NRT provides a graded amount of nicotine to address withdrawal symptoms. It is essential to use NRT properly and follow the recommended dosage. Dr Goel emphasises that using NRT irrationally or inadequately may lead to ineffective results.
Yashpal Garg, UT health secretary, expressed the aim to make Chandigarh a tobacco-free city in collaboration with e-RCTC and other stakeholders. He emphasised the importance of collective efforts from all stakeholders to eliminate this harmful menace from society.