World No Tobacco Day – Mark your journey to being smoke free
In 1987, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared May 31 of every year, as World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) to create awareness of tobacco and its harmful effects. This day also serves as a reminder that to reduce the high incidence of diseases like oral cancer, lung cancer and cardiovascular problems, tobacco consumption has to reduce dramatically.
In India, one-third of all adults or approximately 275 million people use tobacco in one form or the other. It is estimated that if no preventive steps are taken on time, 1, 43,963 Indians will be diagnosed with oral and pharyngeal cancers and 91,029 will die of the disease by 2015.
As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey results, nearly half of all tobacco users want to quit and over one-third had attempted quitting within past one year. Vast majority were not successful because upon quitting, a tobacco user experiences stress due to withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, anxiety, depression or other physical symptoms. To relieve some of these withdrawal symptoms, a safe-to-use and effective treatment such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can be explored.
Globally NRT products are available in the form of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, inhalers and sublingual tablets, however in India; nicotine gum is the most widely used form of NRT. These products combat withdrawal symptoms by providing clean, therapeutic nicotine at a slower pace compared to cigarettes and chewing tobacco. They are also devoid of other harmful substances such as carbon monoxide, tar and arsenic present in cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
Research shows that it takes up to 12 weeks for the nicotine receptors in the brain to switch off. Measures taken during these crucial 12 weeks play a critical role in determining success rates.
12 week quit plan
1) Announce your quit plans to close friends and family
2) Reduce craving with the help of an NRT product
3) Substitute the urge to smoke with deep breathing or exercise
4) Resist triggers such as coffee, tea and alcohol which in turn can ruin the quit attempt
5) Reward yourself for every day/week that you remain tobacco free
6) Chew on nuts, fruits, nutritious items like carrot and cucumber slices to help fight craving
Tobacco consumers can also seek support from tobacco cessation quit lines. These toll-free numbers provide tobacco-users with expert counseling and guidance/support over the phone. Globally they have been recognized for providing access to evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment despite geographical barriers.
A tailor-made plan that suits the smoker's lifestyle and routine along with right treatment is instrumental in helping a smoker become an ex-smoker!
Source: Dr. PC Gupta is Director, Healis - Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, Mumbai and Visiting Scientist, Harvard School of Public Health