Tobacco vs Gaming

Digital or Online Gaming (henceforth referred to as Gaming) is a phenomenon that has engulfed all age groups from toddlers, and kids too young adults to grown-ups and even the old age ones. During our interactions with medical professionals and individuals across age groups, it became evident that digital or online gaming is something that keeps people glued to their screens.

 

  • In 2022 the number of gamers stood at more than 50 crores which are expected to increase to 70 crores by 2025!! 
  • Mobile is the most common device used for gaming, with more than 90% of gamers opting for it. 
  • Gaming companies raised more than USD 2 billion in capital in the last 2 years 2021 & 2022.


There are several researches and surveys, highlighting the impact of gaming on our society and one of the most profound one has been on our musculoskeletal health. 
Musculoskeletal conditions like back pain, neck pain, spondylitis etc continue to wreak havoc in our lives causing severe pain and suffering. Poor lifestyle and increased gadget usage are amongst the prime reasons behind these ailments.
 

And gaming takes it to the next level!! 

 

As a company on a mission of improving musculoskeletal health, we have taken a small initiative to raise awareness about the ill effects of gaming. An effort which was planned to focus on the musculoskeletal hazards of gaming soon revealed many other unfortunate consequences – eventually making it akin to Gutkha or Tobacco

 

For those not familiar with what a Gutkha is  

 

A type of smokeless tobacco that is made in India and is widely used throughout Asia. It is a mixture of tobacco, crushed areca nut (also called betel nut), spices, and other ingredients. It is used like chewing tobacco and is placed in the mouth, usually between the gum and cheek. Gutka contains nicotine and many harmful, cancer-causing chemicals. Using it can lead to nicotine addiction and can cause cancers of the lip, mouth, tongue, throat, and oesophagus. Also called betel quid with tobacco.” – National Cancer Institute 

 

Seems like an odd comparison – Let us see 

 

Both can be addictive 

Gutkha for sure is addictive and Gaming addicts of varying degrees can be easily spotted around us. Given that addiction is more of a psychological disorder there are different rating scales which are used to measure addiction and the most preferred scale is GASA (Game Addiction Scale for Adolescents) to measure Internet gaming disorder (IGD). Didn’t hear about these? These terms exist because there exists a health condition linked to gaming and which is only becoming more widespread. 

Ref: Game Addiction Scale for Adolescents—Psychometric Analyses of Gaming Behavior, Gender Differences and ADHD – PMC (nih.gov) 

 

Both are Injurious to Physical Health 

Gutkha is known to cause oral cancers, loss of concentration, loss of appetite, unusual sleep patterns, anaemia & cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).  

Various studies have shown that excessive amount of gaming leads to Obesity, neck pain & back pain. It is often observed that gamers tend to delay their restroom breaks to not stop the game in between, leading to hygiene issues.

Ref: Genotoxic and Carcinogenic Effect of Gutkha: A Fast-growing Smokeless Tobacco – PMC (nih.gov)
Ref: Video games and screen addiction – Mayo Clinic Health System 

 

One damages teeth, other damages the spine 

The poor dental health of Gutkha eaters is known to all. Just like the way gutkha damages the teeth, gaming leads to an adverse impact on spinal health. Multiple studies have found that prolonged sedentary behaviour demonstrated in gaming with highly repetitive upper body movements, become a contributing factor to musculoskeletal disorders. Most reported painful body parts back, neck & shoulder.

Ref: Effect of gutkha chewing on periodontal health and oral hygiene of peoples in Delhi NCR region of North India: A cross-sectional multicentered study – PMC (nih.gov) 

Ref: Musculoskeletal disorders in video gamers – a systematic review – PMC (nih.gov) 

Both damage eyesight

Constant staring at the screen is essential for gaming and hence One of the most commonly reported disorders associated with video games and excessive screen time is a condition known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). Uninterrupted gazing at highly lit-up screens also leads to dry eyes, blurred vision and headaches. Consumption of Gutkha also leads to damage to the eyes.

 

Both are sold under the garb of recreation 
Tobacco or Gutkha is/was sold as a recreation item, something which is attached to gaming also 

 

Both are promoted by celebrities 

We often see celebrities promoting Gutkha and other tobacco products, albeit under surrogate ads. With regards to gaming the promotions are very direct and also include a lot of sporting icons 

 

Both require deaddiction camps  

Deaddiction camps and therapies for gutkha and tobacco addicts are not new but now we see deaddiction camps coming up for gaming addicts also!! 

 

Usually, both have supernormal profits 

An addictive commodity is insulated from economic cycles and has exceptionally high margins. The same has been true for Gutkha. Similarly, most gaming corporations have also been highly profitable. 

 

Both damage brain cells/neural systems 

Studies have established the genotoxic effect of Guthka and even causing DNA damage. For gaming, instances of gaming-induced epileptic seizures have been existing for long.

Ref: Video game induced seizures – PubMed (nih.gov)
Ref: Assessment of DNA damage by pan masala, gutkha chewing and smoking in buccal epithelial cells using alkaline single cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) – ScienceDirect 

Both lead to hormonal disorders 

Researches have proved that playing violent games increases cortisol significantly during playing and its level remains constant after playing. In males, gutkha is known to lead to decreased testosterone while in females it can cause impairment of ovarian morphology and function, oocyte quality, hormonal perturbations, foetal development and long-term health effects on the foetus. 
Ref: Toxicity of Gutkha, a Smokeless Tobacco Product Gone Global: Is There More to the Toxicity than Nicotine? – PMC (nih.gov) 
Ref: Toxic effects of smokeless tobacco on female reproductive health: A review – PMC (nih.gov) 

 

Both lead to family quarrels 

Often one reads reports wherein there is family violence and in some cases, even kids committing suicide when parents scold them for playing online games. This phenomenon also resonates with the quarrels in a family due to tobacco consumption  

 

Both give a false sense of strength/high/accomplishment 

Gutkha is known to be a stimulant and a relaxant wherein the addict gets on a short-term high and a perceived boost of energy. Online games are also designed to give a false sense of accomplishment through various means like level-ups or streaks or unlocking extra powers. But in reality, the player remains what he/she is, if not worse. 

 

Both make you socially alienated 

Studies have shown that generally, there was a significant difference between the social skills of students addicted to computer games and normal students. Normal students had a higher level of social skills in comparison with students addicted to computer games.  

On a similar note, tobacco is also associated with larger reductions in social contact, increases in social disengagement, and increases in loneliness over time.
Ref: 
Comparing the Social Skills of Students Addicted to Computer Games with Normal Students – PMC (nih.gov) 
Ref: 
New findings suggest smoking increases social isolation and loneliness | Imperial News | Imperial College London 

 

Both lead to a loss of productivity 

It is an established fact that gaming is a big drain on productive time as there is no meaningful outcome from the time a user spends playing games. Similarly, tobacco usage and addiction lead to higher absenteeism and work productivity loss. 

 

Both Expedite Ageing 

Excessive sitting has a direct correlation with the manifestation of multiple chronic ailments and gaming just makes you sit, in one place for long periods. Nothing more needs to be said about Gutkha’s impact on one’s life and health 

 

Both lead to emotional weakness 

Researches have found a negative correlation between problematic video gaming and psychological functioning concerning psychological symptoms, affectivity, coping, and self-esteem. One often sees withdrawal symptoms in addicted gamers like irritability, anxiety, or sadness. Gutkha is no different.
Ref: 
The withdrawal-related affective, gaming urge, and anhedonia symptoms of internet gaming disorder during abstinence – PMC (nih.gov) 

 

Both seem ’cool’ until the effects show up !

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