Smoking is just like mouth fresheners for us: Koratpur tribals

Koratpur (Orissa), May 31 : The world celebrated Anti-Tobacco Day on Tuesday, but for tribal folk in Orissa’s Koratpur District, it made no difference, as they continue to smoke ‘Pika’ a locally made cigarette, unaware and ignorant of the hazardous effects of tobacco consumption.

Pika is a handmade 5-8 inch long-cigarette made of Kendu, a tobacco leaf. The women get tobacco at Rs 20-25 per packet, which lasts them for a week.

Plantayion in Orissa’s Koratpur District

Plantayion in Orissa’s Koratpur District

Smoking of ‘Pika’ by tribal women has created a generation of active and passive smokers in the region, who shockingly have no qualms about smoking the killer stick.

“I exactly don’t remember when I started smoking but I know I have learnt it from my parents. If I don’t smoke I feel suffocated. Smoking is just like a mouth fresheners. I cannot live without smoking. Now if someone comes and tells us to give up smoking how it is possible? Can we give up eating rice? We buy it from the market and make this cigarette. We make two to three and smoke one by one when one finish we smoke another,” said Galartha Naik, a tribal woman.

The medical officers of the region said the growing babies in the womb of smoking mother are at higher risk.

“Growing children in the womb of the mother, suffer a lot. There is low baby weight (LBW) phenomenon in this area also. At times we find children are suffering in the mothers’ womb from various respiratory tract infections, oxygen supply is very less. In a pregnant woman, oxygen is supplied to the placenta and when women smoke, it is been restricted due to smoking, the baby suffers a lot,” said Shanka Sekhar Chowdhury, the district medical officer.

According to statistics there are about 62 distinct tribal groups in the state.

Medical statistics also reveal there are approximately 120 million smokers in India, about 37 percent of all men and 5 percent of all women between the ages of 30 and 69.

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