The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) released by the Union Health Ministry last month revealed that the use of tobacco among the youth, women and adults has decreased. While this is encouraging, is it enough? We continue to fight the medical endemic of cancer and TB caused by tobacco.The government has released a Public Service Advertisement last week stating the side effects of tobacco and related products. The message is hard hitting, but one cannot be sure about its impact.“The focus needs to be beyond advertisements and packaging warnings. Harm reduction will require the ministry to open up discussions and look at options that are not only smokeless. An addict is used to the hand to mouth action and weaning them off cigarettes is a challenge,” said Nilesh Jain, founder of ivape.in.A survey conducted by Kantar - an insight, information and consultancy group - across 14 countries revealed that 48% of Indian smokers have a cigarette just after waking up. Surprisingly, the same survey revealed that only 60% of Indians accepted their addiction to smoking - the least among the other countries who participated. This survey is part of a broader research effort of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, to regularly evaluate, monitor and publish reports on progress towards reducing deaths and harm from smoking and eliminating smoking worldwide.
"The idea is to gain a clear understanding of the current landscape of smoking habits across India & the world: understand perceptions in terms of harmfulness and addictiveness, smoking behaviors, awareness and consumption of alternative products." said Nilesh Jain, Founder, ivape.in. "More importantly we need an understanding of the population’s health conditions, sports and eating habits, this will help Indian regulators and policy makers contextualize and set a baseline for further research and decision making. Ban is easy, saving lives is hard. India needs to focus on harm reduction and RRP, drive change through innovation in healthier alternatives. Governments focus should be to drive improvement in chronic diseases and shift focus to chronic diseases and last mile care, for immediate action towards impact on 250M tobacco users in India.“added Nilesh Jain.With Tobacco control having been the war cry for various organizations and individuals alike, the focus has now shifted to understanding harm reduction via electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Led by a group of international experts, the WHO has been urged to support the claim to ease the burden of smoking related diseases. Writing to the director general of the WHO, the group expressed their dissatisfaction towards the legislation designed to control use of tobacco products was not applied to products that had low risk when it came to nicotine delivery. As such, the discussion continues while data gathering goes on about cigarette smoking trends.
Research also drives home the importance of harm reduction via ENDS. A staggering 31% of smokers believe that cigarette smoking is not harmful to their health and 34% of them believe that people around them are unaffected by the smoke.Without any education on ENDS, tobacco consumers in India will not be exposed to an alternative to cigarettes resulting in an increase of unregulated trade and exchange of devices and e-liquids. Through vaping, the risk of diseases caused by tobacco is eliminated completely and what remains is vapor - a substance that is diffused immediately as soon as it hits the air around you. According to studies by Public Health England, it was proven that vaping is 95% less harmful than a cigarette - boxed or hand rolled.Hundreds of flavors have been developed that allow for smokers to curb and then cease their smoking habits while at the same time delivering the nicotine that people get addicted to.Innovation has been a key driver with more devices and e-liquids hitting the market daily. However, what we really need is acceptance and awareness and they will be the key drivers of harm reduction in India.