A study that surveyed more than 7,500 high school and higher secondary school students in Kerala’s Ernakulam 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.
Lead author Dr T S Jaisoorya said in a release that they took up the study to evaluate psychological issues among school-going adolescents who often have multiple vulnerabilities.
A high 76.3 % of lifelong tobacco users – those who had smoked or used smokeless tobacco throughout their life – had failed in a subject compared to 57% of non-users, the release said. Further, 24.7% of such users had failed a year of studies as against 9.1% 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% as compared to 11% in non-users. In the case of illicit drugs, the rates of use were 33% versus 6.1% in tobacco users and non-users.
These findings recently published in the 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 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% reported having used tobacco in any form, with the proportion of males using tobacco being 12.5% and females 1.2%. Most users still initiated early, with the mean age of initiation among users being 14 years.
Further, a majority of users (67%) were using it hazardously in their school years signifying that they had a very high risk of progression to addiction, the release said.