September 8, 2021 07:13 PM
Time to look beyond tobacco cessation, Tobacco cessation is a noble goal without question. But will it ever be achieved in the face of government ownership of tobacco companies, increasing tobacco farming, misguided laws and foreign lobby groups pushing narrow agendas?
It is also worth questioning how change in the tobacco-use landscape can become a reality in India when there is a ban on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) which are now the most popular means to quit smoking worldwide, even as most of the other cessation methods advocated by the government, such as counseling and nicotine gums, have either failed due to poor rollout or are out of the reach of the common man?
A case, therefore, needs to be made that in a country with such a large tobacco-using population, consuming a wide variety of products, and inadequate quit support, maintaining complete cessation as the only goal is unrealistic and should give way to an expanded and more pragmatic mission of reducing tobacco-related death and diseases through substitution and harm reduction measures.
Time to look beyond tobacco cessation, In this context, a recent paper by Chelsea Boyd on tobacco and harm reduction in India makes an interesting case for reversing the ban on ENDS in India.
She delves into our tobacco ecosystem with a nuanced take on the health burden of tobacco (4% of our population are cigarette smokers, 7.7% smoke bidis and 21.4% are smokeless tobacco users), the breakdown of the tobacco marketplace, the various pieces of tobacco legislation, and the pitfalls and shortcomings therein.
Boyd then makes a strong argument for the importance and need of tobacco harm reduction. “Given the large proportion of the population that uses tobacco, India is a prime location for applying tobacco harm reduction strategies… by preventing access to alternative nicotine delivery systems.