Maharashtra has most tobacco users who plan to quit: Survey
Mumbai A nationwide survey, as a part of a worldwide survey on the impact of tobacco control policies, showed that although in the last decade, the awareness of cigarette health warnings increased in India, there is low awareness of quitline numbers on cigarette packets (1800-11-2356).
The survey further showed that Maharashtra had the highest percentage of smokeless tobacco users (39%), who had plans to quit as compared to other states (West Bengal- 20%, Bihar- 19% and Madhya Pradesh- 8%).
The survey was done under the Tobacco Control Programme (TCP) India project by Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, in partnership with the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Waterloo, Canada.
In India, 10,474 people above the age of 15 were surveyed: Bihar- 2,598, West Bengal-2,637, Madhya Pradesh-2,620, and Maharashtra-2,619.
The first-round survey in four states was conducted between August 2010 and October 2011. The second round of the survey was conducted between October 2012 to September 2013 and the most recent round was conducted between July 2018 to July 2019.
The survey is part of the project that’s being conducted in 31 countries to examine the effects of tobacco control policy.
“Only one in five bidi smokers were aware of the ‘quitline number’ on bidi warnings in Maharashtra. Among the cigarette smokers in Maharashtra, 34% were aware of the helpline number. There is an urgent need to increase state-specific tobacco cessation infrastructure that will support the increasing calls from users for cessation help on the existing National ‘quitline number’,” said Dr Mangesh Pednekar, director, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health.
Among smokers, 5% in Madhya Pradesh, 15% in Bihar, 21% in West Bengal and 35% in Maharashtra reported that they had plans to quit smoking. In all states, personal health was the most common reason among both smokeless (chewing tobacco like gutka) users (Maharashtra -70%, MP-80%, WB-50% and Bihar 29%) and smokers (Maharashtra -84%, MP-91%, WB-58% and Bihar 44%) to quit.
In West Bengal and Maharashtra, about a third of smokers reported they had visited a health professional in the past six months. While this was lower in MP (24%) and in Bihar (19%). Among those who had visited a health professional, 49% or more in MP and WB, 35% in Maharashtra and about 20% in Bihar were asked to quit. However, almost none were referred to another service to help quit all tobacco products.
In all four states, almost everyone was aware of health warnings on cigarette packages. However, among cigarette smokers, the percentage who noticed warning labels when they smoked ranged from 46% in Bihar to 88% in MP.
Dr Prakash C Gupta, director, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health said, “The use of tobacco is the major risk factor for many fatal diseases in India, such as lung-related diseases, stroke, cancer, etc as well as many non-fatal diseases. It is one of the leading causes of death, accounting for 3,500 deaths every day in India. The survey reveals many alarming facts that need to be addressed with immediate effect. It is heartening that the number of people who want to quit is increasing as can be seen from the survey results.”
Dr Lancelot Pinto, consultant respirologist, who also heads the tobacco cessation programme at PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim, said that 90% of tobacco users are aware of the harmful effects of tobacco but can’t seem to quit.
“We need robust tobacco cessation programmes in our government hospitals. Many countries, such as South Korea and Japan, have started these programmes to help their citizens quit,” he said.
He further added that on an average, a tobacco addict has around a 40% chance of quitting at the end of one year if put on combined therapy. “Without any help, an addict has 3% chance to quit after a year, and with the help of only gum/nicotine patch, the chance is 15%. One needs to treat tobacco addiction as a disease,” said Pinto.
Rise in state-run tobacco centres after pandemic
Maharashtra saw a drop in state-run tobacco cessation centres in the last two years. During 2018-19, the state had 279 centres that consulted 2,01,692 people out of which 9,016 managed to quit tobacco.
Similarly, in 2020-2021, the state had only 41 centres in which 1,24,792 people were counselled and 3,978 quit. With the pandemic over, the state said the tobacco cessation centres have gone up and presently 230 are active. Between 2021-22, 2,43,760 people were counselled and 5,911 quit tobacco.
Dr Padmaja Jogewar, joint director, Directorate of Health Services (DHS) and in charge of the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) in the state said, “The centres shut down during the pandemic as the focus shifted to Covid management. We have started most of the centres and plan to have one tobacco cessation centre in each rural hospital, sub-district hospital, and district-level hospital. We also plan to have one tobacco cessation centre in Mumbai.”
The tobacco cessation centres were started in 2016. As per the data received from the DHS, in 2016-17, the state had 29 centres and counselled 61,944.
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