World No Tobacco day: More people quit smoking during Covid-19 pandemic

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May 31, 2021 2:50 PM

The Webinar titled “Tobacco Cessation in India: Policies, Practice and Challenges’ highlighted the importance of tobacco cessation policies in the country and checked different modalities of cessation practiced in India and challenges faced by the practitioners

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The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a rise in the number of people strengthening their commitment to quit smoking or tobacco consumptions, said panelists on World No Tobacco Day webinar conducted by Salaam Mumbai Foundation on May 31. Dr. Pratima Murthy, professor of Psychiatry and Head of the Department of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bengaluru said that 90 percent of the callers during Covid seeking counseling to quit smoking has health concerns around the disease, medical practitioners were time and again warned that Covid symptoms are much worse among smokers. Many of them were also worried about exposing their children to tobacco smoking.

Dr. Murthy also shared that the number of people who actually quit smoking was also very high during the pandemic. Citing figures she said they attained success with three fourth of the cases and 40 percent of them quit in one month from attaining counseling, double of what would happen in pre-covid times. Currently, counselors at NIMHANS are running their sessions from home.

The Webinar titled “Tobacco Cessation in India: Policies, Practice and Challenges’ highlighted the importance of tobacco cessation policies in the country and checked different modalities of cessation practiced in India and challenges faced by the practitioners while dealing with issues like adolescent tobacco use, smokeless tobacco cessation, etc. It also discussed the role of oral healthcare experts in handling tobacco cessation.

Dr. L. Swasticharan, Additional Deputy Director General and Director (EMR) in Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India informed that the Centre will soon launch a digital platform that will maintain the numbers or the outcome of the quit tobacco programs for the convenience of the experts. He also informed that there they are trying to augment the tobacco cessation helpline service, ‘Quitline’

As per the Global Burden of Disease study, till 2019, India had the second-highest number of tobacco consumers from ages 15-24 (nearly 2 crores). The increase in adolescent smoking reached its peak in 1990 As in 2019, tobacco smoking caused 7.7 million death, globally.

The panelists stressed on the importance of proving access to these cessation programs, policies that can help smokers to forgo the habit, more structured orientation for tobacco cessation. One of the panelists recommended retaining people in the program through follows ups and involvement of the youth to create awareness about tobacco cessation and services available.

Dr. Himanshu A. Gupte, Lead – LifeFirst Tobacco Program Cessation Program, Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation affirmed that if the various models of tobacco cessation that were discussed are implemented it will be able to support every tobacco user including vulnerable populations like adolescents or those who are socio-economically disadvantaged.

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