Clearing the air

Nicotine is highly addictive, with only one in 20 smokers managing to quit. Here’s experts’ views on popular crutches to help you stop smoking for good

delhi Updated: Sep 15, 2013 02:18 IST
Sidhartha Dutta
Sidhartha Dutta
Hindustan Times

Like all addictions, smoking is inconvenient as it hits your health, your libido, your finances and makes your smell like a dirty ashtray. Some, like media professional Nikita Chopra, 23, are able to kick the butt just riding on motivation after smoking a pack a day for two years riding. “I recently met a chain-smoker who was diagnosed with throat cancer. I felt terrible looking at him as he couldn’t even speak.

I didn’t want to die a painful death, so I decided to quit,” says Chopra, who has been tobacco-free for a little over a fortnight. “I thought quitting would be very difficult, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I think the fright of getting cancer got me on track,” says Chopra.

Cases like Chopra’s are extremely rare. It takes people an average of six attempts to quit tobacco.

“Everyone should be counselled about the harmful effects of tobacco use through individual and group counselling,” says Dr K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). Add to that disincentives such as ban on smoking in public places, high taxes and plain packaging, and you can protect a generation from getting addicted.

For those already hooked, here are some crutches to help you quit smoking.

Nicotine cigarette: This electronic inhaler works as a substitute for tobacco smoking. "Electronic cigarettes also contain nicotine and are not a replacement for quitting smoking. It is not a safe alternative because it may cut down on cancer risk but may not reduce the risk of heart attack," said Dr Reddy.

Nicotine gum/patches: “Nicotine Replacement Therapy uses gums and patches to reduce the harm associated with tobacco consumption. By only using nicotine, the adverse effects of 2,500 other harmful chemicals in tobacco is reduced and you can gradually lower the doses to stop dependence altogether,” said Dr Sameer Malhotra, head, department of Mental Health, Max Healthcare. The 2mg-strength nicotine gum costs around `60, and the 4mg comes for `110.

Cessation clinics: Unlike in developed countries, tobacco cessation clinics at a community level in India are mostly unregulated, privately-run centres. “Volunteers can be trained to educate people about the benefits of cessation at a community level to take cessation out of hospitals,” says Dr Reddy.

Online apps: Use of phone-counseling and online intervention are picking up among urban tobacco users who want to quit. Among the most popular apps in India are Livestrong My Quit Coach Lite, which creates a personalised plan, along with motivational tips and progress charts, to ensure that you stay on track. QuitNow is another app that comes with additional features such as a chat room for people to share their experiences, an image gallery that has posters showing the effects of smoking, and a log that shows how much money you’ve saved. KickSmoking even counts the number of cravings resisted and cigarettes avoided to take your mind off the craving by giving you an end goal to focus on instead.

Cold turkey: This is the Chopra way, where the person is self-motivated enough to stop tobacco use on her/his own. “It works for very few as the chances of relapse are high,” says Dr Bidyut Sarkar, research scholar, PHFI.

First Published: Sep 15, 2013 00:15 IST