Over 50 percent of teenagers in India smoke cigarettes because they believe it helps reduce stress, and because smoking makes them appear “cool” among their peers, finds a survey. The survey showed that over 52 percent teenagers believed that smoking helps increase concentration levels. While nearly 90 percent of teenagers said they would continue smoking if there is no resistance from their parents, over 80 percent teenagers noted that it is okay to experiment with smoking at least once.

“Smoking is plaguing the society and we are moving into an era where it is acceptable for younger age groups to begin smoking and engage in other risky behaviours,” Samir Parikh, Director (Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences) at Fortis Healthcare said in a statement on Monday. Further, 87 percent teenagers reported that watching actors smoke in movies promotes smoking, while 78 percent teenagers said that celebrity figures featuring in anti-smoking campaigns would help them quit. Over 60 percent teenagers also believed that disclaimers showing harmful consequences of smoking can help in prevention.

The survey highlights the need to change the youth’s perception about smoking as it can lead to the early onset of lifestyle-related diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking claims the lives of over seven million people each year. A study published in the journal “The Lancet” showed that over 11 percent of 6.4 million deaths worldwide were caused by smoking in 2015 and 52.2 percent of them took place in China, India, Russia, and the US.

Smoking causes almost 90 percent of deaths from lung cancer, around 80 percent of deaths from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and around 17 percent of deaths from heart disease.  For the survey, the team engaged and interacted with 1900 teenagers from six states, Delhi/NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kolkata and Chennai to assess the prevalent attitudes towards tobacco smoking.