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Nearly 70% Smokers Wish to Quit, But Only 3-5% Succeed: Experts

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Nearly 70% Smokers Wish to Quit, But Only 3-5% Succeed: Experts


As we mark World No-Tobacco Day, it’s alarming to note that 266.8 million Indian adults use tobacco, making India the second-largest smoking population in the world. This day is a crucial reminder to learn from successful smoking cessation campaigns in countries like Sweden, the US, and New Zealand, where effective measures have significantly reduced smoking rates. Sweden’s success with snus and the widespread use of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) in the US and Europe offer valuable lessons. However, India must overcome significant challenges in NRT awareness and accessibility to replicate these successes.

Dr Nikhil Modi, Consultant – Critical Care, Respiratory Medicine & Sleep Disorder, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, elaborates on the challenges of tobacco addiction and offers solutions, stating, “Nicotine is highly addictive, making quitting difficult. While nearly 70% of smokers want to quit, only 3-5% succeed. We must create a supportive environment and promote non-tobacco substitutes like Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) as seen in countries that have successfully aided cessation. Without adequate cessation services, 160 million more smokers could die by 2050. Despite having 19 cessation centres in India, we still have the world’s second-largest smoking population. It’s time to move beyond stereotypes and adopt the successful strategies of other nations.”

The WHO identifies tobacco as a major risk factor for cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and stroke in India, with the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17 indicating a 10.38% smoking prevalence. Experts urge the use of safer alternatives like evidence-based novel safer tobacco products, which reduce harmful chemicals by over 95% compared to cigarettes. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) also aids cessation by alleviating withdrawal symptoms and cravings, increasing quit rates by 50-70%.

Dr Pawan Gupta, Senior Consultant, Dept., of Pulmonology, BLK MAX Hospital, New Delhi, emphasizes the importance of identifying smokers and intervening early, saying, “Quitting abruptly can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, insomnia, mood changes, and poor cognition. This is where non-tobacco substitutes play a crucial role. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is effective in reducing the urge to smoke gradually. Safer alternatives such as NRT have seen substantial success in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Canada, and France. NRT, available in various forms like patches, lozenges, inhalers, sprays, and gum, can increase quit rates by 50-70% by alleviating withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Ensuring the hassle-free availability and accessibility of NRT could greatly assist Indian smokers in quitting.”


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