PUNE: A study conducted by the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) in June has revealed that chances of anaemia are four times higher among women who consume smokeless tobacco.
Gauri Dhumal conducted the study that focused on new mothers and their babies. Two focus groups were formed for a comparative study. “The study was conducted on women who use smokeless tobacco as compared to those who don’t. Among users, there were also some women, who chewed mishri, a type of smokeless tobacco that is considered a teeth cleanser,” she said.
Dhumal has recently completed her PhD on the subject from the university’s department of anthropology Altogether 591 women from two government and two private hospitals in the city were studied under the project. Of the total, the newborns to 140 (23.69%) women were below the average weight. “The study was conducted at hospitals, among women who had just delivered their babies. We collected data on tobacco use during their pregnancy and its effect on their health as well as that of their babies. We compared this focus group with another that was not addicted to tobacco,” Dhumal said.
Mishri has long been used by the Maharashtrian community. Though the common belief is that it cleans teeth, ultimately women get addicted to it, said Dhumal.
Dhumal’s study also referred to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO). According to GATS, smokeless tobacco is widely used among women in Maharashtra as compared to men. Dhumal’s findings indicate that women using smokeless tobacco also tend to lose weight that may lead to malnourishment.
About how to curb smokeless tobacco use, Dhumal said intervention measures should be developed at the hospital level or within the community setting. “We should also create groups to counsel women. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, if we promote a similar group at the community level, those who have quit using the substance can counsel and guide others.”
Nitin Abhyankar, a chest physician, who works predominantly towards tobacco cessation agrees that tobacco use by pregnant women would lead to underweight babies. “It is an established fact that women consuming tobacco during their pregnancy deliver underweight babies.”
He added that chances of higher risk of anaemia is indeed a possibility. “It is possible that anaemia is four times higher as tobacco users tend to be grossly anorexic. Over time, they will get undernourished leading to malnourishment due to vitamin and iron deficiency because of overall poor nutrition and food intake.”
Abhyankar further said that the link with anaemia and tobacco use was caused by nutritional deficiency. “Users’ appetite reduces if they consume tobacco either in large quantities or frequently. Though tobacco can’t cause anaemia per se, it can cause blood cancer.”