The Ominous beginning” Perceptions of Smokeless Tobacco Initiation among the Paniya Tribes of Wayanad: A qualitative Study

Document Type : Research Articles


Department of Public Health Dentistry, Amrita School of Dentistry, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Kochi, Kerala, India.


Background: The prevalence of tobacco chewing, and related oral mucosal lesions is alarmingly high amongst the Paniya tribes of Wayanad. A deeper understanding of their socio-cultural factors, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours would shed greater insights into the indiscriminate use of smokeless tobacco and related products in this community. Methods: Ethnography was the theoretical framework adopted with network and convenience sampling. Fifteen in-depth interviews and two focus group discussions were conducted among the key informants from within the tribal colonies of Cheepram and Madikkunnu. The data was audio recorded and converted into verbatim transcripts. Thematic content analysis was done using an inductive approach performed using computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (NVivo). Results: This study is suggestive of parental influence and peer pressure as the key factors for smokeless tobacco initiation amongst the adolescent. There was a greater predisposition for women to be chewers of tobacco, particularly after marriage. The key factors influencing initiation of the habit amongst men include peer pressure and availability of tobacco at workplace. The role of contextual factors such as enculturation, marginalization and perceived health benefits also play a substantial role in development of this habit. Conclusion: Targeted strategies for effective tobacco control can be developed through an understanding of the socio-cultural factors leading to initiation of smokeless tobacco use among disadvantaged communities.


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