India has the second-largest population of tobacco users.
We are all aware about the ill effects of tobacco and its impact on one’s health. There is ample amount of information available on that. And then there are statistics that indicate the gravity of the situation in India and across other nations.
We have debated on numbers, diseases and the tobacco industry but we have, hardly ever, focused on the user. As any other habit forming addiction, preference of tobacco usage also lies with the end user. And not quoting stats, majority of the users are aware of the health implications of this habit and nearly all of them have tried to quit this habit more than once in their lifetime. So the major questions are:
Why are they not successful in quitting this habit? and,
what are we doing to aid them in this process?
Use of tobacco is not a new problem and reports indicate the growing trend of this addiction across all sections of the society.
India and Tobacco
• 275 million adults, nearly 35% of the population smokes
Cigarettes, Bidis, Raw tobacco, Khaini or any other form of tobacco are low cost products and easily available across all retail shops, small vendors and pan shops. This low cost of this addiction is probably one of the reasons for its exponential growth of this addiction. A sharp rise in the cost of these products might be the required motivation.
There have been certain commendable action by the government to curb the usage like banning smoking in public places, placement of a/v across movie halls and television programmes and above all the use of pictorial evidence of the impact of smoking on our vital organs.
This impactful initiative has led to a single digit percentage drop in the usage, nevertheless, a small but significant achievement that will definitely lead to further drop in usage in the coming years. But, on the other hand, the impact of the pictures on the packets is completely lost amongst the group of people that smoke bidis and/or are habitual to other forms of smokeless tobacco variants.
The Global impact
• 10 people die every minute due to smoking globally
We are bound to see more similar impactful initiatives in the coming years as India fights to curb Tuberculosis by 2025, 5 years prior to the globally set deadline.
Absence of proper counseling.
Amongst young adults and children, Counseling will play an important part in conveying the long term impact of tobacco on human health. Guidance, Hand holding and most importantly understanding and respecting them during the de-addiction programme will play a major role in converting India into a tobacco free nation.
Introducing an informative ‘Smoking Cessation Programme’ that also includes communications skills and ethical issues in the vocational and post graduate training and especially in the medical training programmes to effectively address these barriers.
Very few placebo product options available to help curb the addiction.
Smoking cessation products can be an effective intervention to slow down the accelerated growth in chronic diseases and mortality rates caused due to tobacco. Physicians can provide evidence based smoking cessation treatment to patients.More research is required in this subject to understand underlying reasons on how physicians can engage in more effective programs.
Smoking Cessation products:
Nicotine patches, gums and Vaping are certain products that have proved instrumental in numerous cases while quitting addiction.
Research and Funding.
Government initiatives should provide sufficient funding for more research enabling entrepreneurs in the area of harm reduction. This is important in order to increase engagement with top research in science and technology in the area of harm reduction and encourage the youth of India to look at new ideas, products and processes that are relevant to India for cessation of tobacco.
We all know about the elephant in the room and we need to address it with more research and fact based solutions.
[Nilesh Jain is the author of the article. He is the co-founder of Clinivantage, a Healthcare company delivering last mile healthcare to rural areas that makes healthcare more accessible & affordable.]
[All views, opinions and expressions are personal and limited to the author.]