Over 80% oral cancer is due to tobacco consumption in India: How NRT can help

Over 80% oral cancer is due to tobacco consumption in India: How NRT can help

May 23, 2023 - 12:30
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Over 80% oral cancer is due to tobacco consumption in India: How NRT can help

Tobacco use is a growing problem in India, with millions of people turning to it to cope with modern life’s stresses. It has also become a lifestyle factor for many people in villages and remote areas.

As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India, nearly, 267 million adults of 15 years and above in India are regular consumers of tobacco. Apart from smoking, the most prevalent form of tobacco use in the interior towns and villages of India is smokeless tobacco generally used as khaini, gutkha, betel quid with tobacco and zarda.

The mortality statistics for tobacco consumption in India is alarming. More than 8 million people die due to tobacco consumption every year, and more than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, and around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. The most alarming fact is that more than 80% of oral cancers are directly due to tobacco use.

While most people are aware of the hazardous effects of tobacco use, many do not realize the harm caused to those near the smoker due to second-hand smoke. Exposure to this second-hand smoke has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, particularly in non-smokers. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 52 per cent of non-smoking adults in India were exposed to second-hand smoke at home, and 29 per cent of non-smoking adults were exposed to second-hand smoke at their workplace.

With rapid urbanisation and economic growth, many people face new challenges and stressors that they may not have experienced before and are turning to tobacco as a coping mechanism. Another reason of increased use is the aggressive marketing and promotion of tobacco products by the tobacco industry, particularly among the youth. Moreover, the lack of strict regulations and enforcement on the selling and distribution of tobacco products makes it easy for people to access them and get addicted. This tobacco consumption is thus creating a significant public health issue.

To address this growing and serious public health issue, the government must take a more active role in reducing tobacco use. This can be done by increasing taxes on tobacco products, enforcing strict rules on their sale and distribution, and funding educational programmes designed to increase awareness about the dangers of tobacco use.

But quitting smoking is not easy. It is a process that requires time, effort, and commitment.

Thankfully, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) has come as a rescue that can manage one’s withdrawal symptoms to a great extent. This therapy helps tobacco users to quit smoking by temporarily replacing the nicotine from tobacco and reducing the motivation to consume tobacco, thus decreasing nicotine withdrawal symptoms. By providing a controlled dose of nicotine, which can be tapered, NRT can help users break their physical addiction to tobacco and improve their chances of successfully quitting the habit. Nicotine replacement therapy can come in various forms such as gums, patches, nasal sprays, inhalers and lozenges; and it can be a useful tool in facilitating the transition from cigarette smoking to completely quitting the habit.

If you or someone you know closely is trying to quit smoking, it is essential to seek support and guidance from a healthcare professional. S/he can advise on the options available and support throughout the quitting process.

It is also important to remember that quitting smoking is a journey. It may take several attempts to succeed, but it is worth the effort. The benefits of quitting smoking are significant and long-lasting. Not only does it reduce the risk of developing tobacco-related illnesses, but it also improves overall health and well-being, increases lifespan and saves money.

The author is Consultant Psychiatrist, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, Bengaluru. Views expressed are personal.

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