Struggling to quit tobacco and don’t know how? Consider calling the Union health ministry’s tollfree QuitLine for results.
Almost 40% people who signed up for the cessation programme, quit smoking or chewing tobacco for three to five weeks, according to the five-month analysis of data of more than 3,000 people who called QuitLine, the national tobacco cessation helpline launched on May 31, 2016.
“The cessation rate is as good as achieved through face-to-face counselling. This programme has the additional benefit of reaching more people because it does not involve physical travel and can be done at your convenience,” said Dr Raj Kumar, officer in-charge of QuitLine 1800-11-2356.
The helpline was launched last year on a pilot basis with six counsellors counselling in Hindi and English between 8 am and 8 pm. The programme is set to expand to include more languages and become a 24*7 helpline.
“After expansion, we will also follow-up with the participants one year from cessation to check how many of them have relapsed and why,” he added.
- Tollfree Tobacco QuitLine: 1800-11-2356 (8 am-8 pm, counselling in English and Hindi)
Of the 3,043 people who signed up for the cessation programme, 28.3% either smoking or chewed tobacco within five minutes of waking up and another 30% within six to 30 minutes of waking up.
People listed stress, anxiety, depression or some other health issues (46.2%) as the biggest reasons for relapse, followed by social and environmental factors (22.3%).
About 9.1% of the people who tried to quit experienced withdrawal symptoms and had to be referred to the nearest tobacco cessation clinics.
Close to 16,000 unique callers called the QuitLine between May 31 and October 31, of which 3,043 registered for the cessation programme.
In five months,, 46,635 calls were received on the voice-response system that the counsellors reverted to later, 7,814 calls were received directly by the counsellors, and 59,593 calls were made by the counsellors to follow up with people who had signed up.
The maximum number of the calls came from Uttar Pradesh, but there were a few calls from all states across India. Most callers found out about the helpline from articles and advertisements in newspapers, magazines and pamphlets.
“We did not want to publicise the helpline because we have limited counsellors, but the encouraging results will help step up services ,” said Dr Raj Kumar.