Act Early, Curb Substance Abuse in Adolescents!

Adolescence is a tender age with major biological growth and social role transition. Studies have revealed it to be the most stressful age due to increased competition in education and employment, changes in one’s identity; physically, mentally, and emotionally, that leads to experimentation, exploration, and often to substance use and abuse.  Adolescents also get easily attracted to smoking because of peer pressure, the influence of shows/movies and characters, or simply building a misconception that they might look cool if they smoke.

In developing countries like India, there is a huge “at-risk” population. According to a prevalence study, 13.1% of the people involved in substance abuse in India are below 20 years of age. A clinic-based survey revealed that 63.6% of the substance users seeking treatment were introduced to drugs at a young age when they were 15 years or younger. (Indian Journal of Psychiatry)

The World Bank reported that about 82,000-99,000 children and adolescents smoke, all over the world, and about half of them continue to smoke in adulthood.

The indulgence in tobacco consumption harms their health severely often leading to premature deaths. India is the third-largest country to produce and consume tobacco.

Substances like tobacco and alcohol are easily available, and youth often end up indulging in the consumption of such substances due to social and peer pressures. A 9th std. student X was a very punctual student before he got into the company of active smokers. As soon as he was exposed to tobacco, he started missing school and lagged behind in his studies.

To avoid the consumption of tobacco among minors, the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act prevents the sale of such products to a person below the age of 18 years and also states that tobacco products cannot be sold within 100 yards radius of an educational institute.

In School Anti-Tobacco Leadership Programmeinitiated by SHARP was implemented in 50 Government schools of Jaipur, Rajasthan.

The objective of the project was to protect the youth of the country from getting involved in any form of Tobacco consumption. The project was designed in a way that each child gets aware about the harmful effects of Tobacco consumption.

The implementation process included several activities that could hold the attention of students and educate and warn them of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption. Above this, one Balpanchayat is formed of 5-6 active students who will take care if the students are involved in Tobacco consumption.

A survey conducted amongst the students revealed:

  • 72% have denied the usage of Gutka, mawa, Khaini, pan masala, cigarette, Bidietc
  • 61% thought that chewing Supaari is not as harmful as chewing Tobacco.
  • 44% adolescents felt that smoking tobacco makes them look attractive
  • 30% adolescents agreed that tobacco products are safe for people above 18 years of age.

The most vital part of such initiatives is the continued prevention of tobacco consumption on a larger scale with the help of

  1. Parents –a counseling session conducted with parents could inform them of the negatives of exposing their child to second-hand smoke and the tendency of the adolescent to adapt to similar habits.
  2. Schools – counseling the adolescents, talking about the problem, bringing advantages & disadvantages in light, practicing productive activities with the children who are in addiction would help them make the right decisions.
  3. Healthcare check-ups – pediatrics in school could conduct routine check-ups that also include checking for exposure of the student to tobacco.
  4. Government – strict implementation of the COTPA, taxation, smoke-free places.
  5. Commercials – the tv and print advertisements should always warn about the ill effects of tobacco consumption, they should not make the act of consuming tobacco look normal among individuals especially adolescents.

With the help of monitoring, counseling & the right guidance, tobacco abuse can not only be contained in adolescents; but successfully prevented. Type a message