The WHO has said more than 20 lakh people enrolled themselves in the first year of a quit-tobacco initiative of the Indian government and also advocated harnessing mobile technology for personalised advice. Considering the high interest in quitting among tobacco users, the government launched a bilingual countrywide programme in January 2016, and a national toll-free quitline in May 2016, it said. An evaluation by the health ministry at the end of the programme’s first year, covering over 12,000 registered users, demonstrated an average quit rate of about 7 per cent among both smokers and smokeless tobacco users, a WHO report on global tobacco epidemic 2017 said.
“One way to expand access is to use mobile technology to provide personalised tobacco cessation advice,” it said.
Emphasising the role of text messaging in such programmes, it said they can be an “efficient and cost-effective” way to provide support “especially when used in conjunction with other cessation programmes, such as brief advice sessions and toll-free quit lines”.
It said ‘mTobaccoCessation’, a programme using mobile technology, reinforces the behavioural aspect of the quitting process, using motivation and real time support in moments of stress.
“Since the launch of the country’s national, bilingual mCessation programme in 2016, more than 2 million (20 lakh) tobacco users have enrolled,” it said.
The global health body said the data is monitored through a real time dashboard indicates improvements in both–outreach and impact.
It said that based on its success, the Indian government has decided to expand this service by introducing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology and making it available in five additional languages.
It said helping people access support for quitting can be a challenge as it requires sustained commitment from governments that often find it difficult to identify sufficient resources for such programmes.
The WHO recommended offering cessation services as part of primary healthcare.
The WHO said there is a debate about whether Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENNDS), which include e-cigarettes, can help people quit smoking.
“Scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of ENDS/ENNDS as a smoking cessation aid is scant and of low certainty, so it cannot currently be determined whether ENDS helps or hinders most smokers in quitting,” it said.