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World No Tobacco Day: Do you want to quit smoking? Try this helpline

Once you decide to quit smoking, go for counselling along with nicotine replacement therapy.

health Updated: May 31, 2017 09:24 IST
Anonna Dutt and Simran Tandon
Anonna Dutt and Simran Tandon
World No Tobacco Day,Quit Smoking,Nicotine replacement therapy
To help people quit tobacco, the government launched a tele-counselling facility – called QuitLine – a year ago. It has had as much success as face-to-face counselling. (Shutterstock)

Ram Gopal Singh, 59, started smoking when he was fifteen. “You see others around you and you get into the habit. It’s very common in the village,” he said. Singh, who worked as a ticket checker in the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses, used to smoke 6-7 cigarettes a day when he was 25. By the time he crossed 40, it escalated to 25 (one whole pack) of bidis.

In 2015, he complained of unbearable pain in his throat while swallowing. He was diagnosed with cancer at the back of his tongue.

The cigarettes and bidis stopped right after the diagnosis.

Bhagirath Reddy, a 24-year-old media professional from Mumbai, quit smoking 14 months ago. His tipping point came when he realised that he was smoking one whole packet of cigarettes every day. “My main motivation was cycling. I had become pathetic at it, my stamina was so low. It was tough for the first month. But, I kept myself occupied with cycle. I even used nicotine chewing gums,” he said.

Motivation is the key. “The subject has to be willing to quit smoking or chewing tobacco. Without motivation, nothing can help. But, just using gums and patches is not enough. Counselling is very important,” said Dr Raj Kumar, head of National Centre of Respiratory Allergy, Asthma & Immunology at Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute.

Counselling along with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the best option. According to a study done by Kumar, 52.9% of the people who underwent counselling along with NRT had quit for a year. “Counselling helps people in setting a quit-date and prepare to reach their goal. They are aware about the withdrawal symptoms and know how to deal with it,” said Dr Kumar.

To help people quit tobacco, government has started a tele-counselling facility called ‘QuitLine’. Interestingly, initial results show that the phone line has had as much success as face-to-face counselling.

According to the five-month report, almost 40% of the people who signed up for the cessation programme quit tobacco in three-to-five weeks. “The cessation rate is as good as achieved through face-to-face counselling. Plus, this programme has the benefit of reaching more people as the counsellors or the people do not have to physically travel,” said Dr Kumar, who is also in-charge of the helpline – 1800-11-2356.

Of the 3,043 people who signed up for the programme in the first five months, 28.3% had the habit of using tobacco within 5 minutes of waking up and another 30% within half-an-hour of waking up.

The helpline was launched exactly a year ago on a pilot basis and provides counselling in Hindi and English from 8am to 8pm. The programme is set to expand to include more languages and become a 24x7 helpline.

Want to quit tobacco?
  • Call the QuitLine on 1800-11-2356
  • Counselling services are provided in Hindi and English from 8am to 8pm

First Published: May 31, 2017 09:20 IST