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Thursday, June 24, 2021

World No Tobacco day: ‘Covid pandemic led to rise in number of smokers wanting to quit’

This year’s World No Tobacco Day theme is ‘Commit to Quit’. During the webinar, the panellists laid emphasis on how the Covid-19 pandemic led to a strengthening of resolve among tobacco users in their commitment to quit (tobacco).

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: June 1, 2021 12:51:31 am
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 crore). (Representational)

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a rise in the number of people who want to quit smoking, according to experts.

The Centre has set up a national-level helpline – Quitline (1800-112-356) — for those seeking to give up tobacco. Counselling is available in 16 languages at different regional centres.

“The proportion of people who call and register for quitting tobacco is much higher, so the number of people seriously wanting to quit has increased. 90 per cent of calls during Covid are because of health concerns around the disease,” said Dr Pratima Murthy, professor of psychiatry and head of the department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru.

The Quitline at NIMHANS caters mainly to southern parts of the country. “There has, overall, been a reduction in the number of calls but what we have found is that the number of people who are actually interested in quitting smoking has increased,” Dr Murthy told The Indian Express.

Earlier, at a webinar on ‘Tobacco Cessation in India: Policies, Practices and Challenges’, Dr Murthy said “Our counsellors shifted from centre-based counselling to home in lockdown, so we were able to exploit technology to make sure whatever calls landed on our system were diverted to the counsellors, and they were able to run it from their homes. Also, the people who were at home during the lockdown were worried about exposing their children to tobacco smoking. That was very encouraging, the other thing that happened during Covid is that the number of people who had actually quit was very high. As many as 75 per cent of all who called to quit said they had given up and nearly about 40 per cent had quit in one month. This is the double of what we would see in pre-Covid times.”

The webinar was organised by Salaam Mumbai Foundation, Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation and LifeFirst on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, observed on May 31. This year’s theme for World No Tobacco Day was ‘Commit to Quit’. During the webinar, the panelists laid emphasis on how the Covid-19 pandemic led to a strengthening of resolve among tobacco users in their commitment to quit tobacco.

As per the Global Burden of Disease study, till 2019, India had the second highest number of tobacco consumers, nearly 2 crore, in the 15-24 age group. The country had witnessed the highest increase of young male smokers in this age group since 1990. Globally, the number of smokers rose to 1.1 billion in 2019, with tobacco smoking causing 7.7 million deaths.

According to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the prevalence of tobacco use has decreased by six percentage points, from 34.6 per cent in 2009-10 to 28.6 per cent in 2016-17.

Dr L Swasticharan, additional deputy director general and director (EMR) in Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said, “Every time we want any information about the numbers or the outcome of the cessation programme, we have to go back to the state government and ask for the numbers. We think it should be recorded in a digital form, kind of an MIS. So, we have developed an MIS and we are trying to incorporate it in the system…”.

“Quitline receives 2.5 lakh calls per month, that’s a huge number that we are unable to cater to, some percentage of it is always left out, that’s why we are trying to augment the service, so that every time somebody calls, it gets picked up and that step is extremely important because there are many of them who will never call again. So, we want to really enhance our service base,” he added.

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, Dr S K Toke, from Pawana Hospital in Pune, emphasised on the connection between tobacco use and risk of respiratory disease. “As cigarette smoking is one of the most common forms of tobacco use… earlier the exposure to this risk factor, greater is the level of decline in lung function,” he said.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 30, 2021

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