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Kicking the Habit: A Global Effort to Quit Tobacco

  • 01 Jun 2023

Tobacco and smoking are two peas in the same pod. They both lead to several issues like lung cancer, and let harmful chemicals enter your body organs. The nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive and assists your brain in releasing large doses of dopamine, i.e., the happiness chemical.

The nicotine levels soon fade away and your body craves the dopamine once again. The longer you are controlled by the nicotine consumption, the more reliant you are on tobacco for your happiness.

Without nicotine, your body starts to feel withdrawal symptoms which makes it difficult to concentrate, feel nervous, anxious or irritable.

Hence, it is important to slowly part with tobacco and leave behind all the harmful substances it comes with. People all around the world are taking the necessary steps to curb tobacco and cut off its influence on others.

The Lancet used data from 3,625 surveys in collaboration with the Global Burden of Disease and commented on the estimates of men and women over 15 years of age and the smoking prevalence in their lives. It said that an estimated 155 million smokers existed between the ages of 15-24 in 2019 alone.

Several measures were taken worldwide to ensure this doesn’t become a bigger problem than it already is.

International initiatives and agreements:

World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)

Under the WHO’s program of FCTC, all countries are mandated to treat tobacco use and dependence. WHO also provides capacity building and training packages independent of their guidelines. It helps governments establish and strengthen the national tobacco cessation systems with the aid of FCTC.

The FCTC aims to put in interventions about the use of tobacco in their primary health care systems and develop national toll-free quit lines and cessation projects. It offers help alongside five other key interventions in the MPOWER package of technical measures and resources. This was introduced by the World Health Organisation and adopted on May 21, 2003.

The signatories of the treaty were required to implement a few measures:

  • Comprehensive ban on all sorts of advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco to be undertaken within five years of signing it;
  • Urgent health warnings and hazard warnings on tobacco packages that ideally cover at least 30%-50% of the display area within three years;
  • Provisions for protection from second-hand smoke in indoor places and public places along with transportation; and
  • Legal measures to reduce smuggling of tobacco-related products into the signatory’s country.

Additionally, the treaty also talks about certain issues revolving around the tobacco problem that countries are facing. It asks for disclosure and regulation of the materials used while making tobacco products, the selling of these products to minors, necessary treatment options for addiction, and research and exchange of information among countries. The FCTC also has provisions to ensure public awareness about the rising issue.

The Society for the Study of Addiction tried to narrow down the root cause of the challenges that the FCTC faced while countries struggled to implement it. They narrowed it down to three main causes: “lack of a health-care system infrastructure, low political priority and lack of funding.” However, countries are working towards better implementation and widening their resources to ensure the tobacco habit is kicked away.

Global efforts to curb tobacco use:

1. Awareness campaigns

Several awareness campaigns are undertaken globally to ensure that the harmful effects of tobacco are widely known. For example, several movie theatres are asked to show advertisements in the intervals with people talking about the negative side of tobacco. Majority of them also have small warnings when a character smokes or uses nicotine-induced substances of any kind.

Another example is World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). On 31st May each year, WNTD is celebrated to raise awareness about the effects of tobacco and exposure to second-hand smoke. This day works to ensure that tobacco users are discouraged from using the substance.

2. Tobacco cessation programs

Counselling and medication can aid in quitting tobacco as a whole and increase chances of a successful quit. However, out of all the countries in the world, only about 23 countries provide an all-rounding cessation service with full or partial cost-coverage of the quitting process. This rounds off to roughly 32% of the entire world’s population getting access to these services.

Health care professionals have a huge hand in reducing the use of tobacco and curbing smoke-related activities. Studies show that very few people fully comprehend the risks and harms of smoking. These risks include life-threatening conditions including lung cancer, heart disease and strokes.

3. Indian public health policies

The Government of India came up with the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) during 2007-2008. They aimed to raise awareness about the consumption, reduce the amount of demand and supply in the current markets, ensure the implementation of “The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003” (COTPA).

It also worked to help people quit the habit and with the help of WHO, they strategized how to prevent the substance consumption.

4. Economic aspects of tobacco control:

  • Economic costs of tobacco

Tobacco smoking is the cause of many preventable diseases and premature deaths in the UK and around the world. It poses enormous health- and non-health-related costs to the affected individuals, employers, and the society at large.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, globally, smoking causes over US$500 billion in economic damage each year.

  • Tobacco industry and marketing practices

The industry usually targets the youth by appealing to them with pop culture references and through social media. They are allowed to sponsor events and place ads in large numbers in teen-centric magazines. The industry also prefers to sponsor night clubs where point-to-sale practices are legal.

5. Case studies and best practices:

New Zealand recently passed a new law that stated that anyone born post 2008 would not be legally allowed to buy a packet of cigarettes or any tobacco products. This bill was called into session in Parliament by Ayesha Verrall, the health minister. She claimed that it was a huge step “towards a smoke-free future.”

The smoking rate in the country is currently only approximately 8 per cent of adults smoking on a day-to-day basis. The country is aiming to reduce the number to less than 5 per cent by 2025 by implementing smoke-free and environmentally friendly policies.

They aim to eliminate the entire problem altogether to ensure the health of the public and more funds to divert elsewhere rather than death-inducing healthcare.

6. Future challenges and recommendations:

The current trends point towards e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. These substances have been increasing among the youth with hype and vigour. Vapes and HTPs are becoming popular among teenagers and are sold in locations frequented by teenagers. These 'substitutes,' as they are commonly referred to, are just as harmful, if not more so, than tobacco and smoking.

This brings us to the next major question. What is the main problem and what can help solve it?

While addressing the social disparities in the industry, one needs to take different regions, socioeconomic groups and vulnerable populations into consideration. Someone growing up in a certain way can also lead them to fall prey to these habits, no matter their background. Helping them overcome tobacco usage is crucial for their well-being.

In my opinion, there are two major changes that one can bring into their lifestyle to get rid of the addiction, on a personal level: education and willpower. Education will help you invest in yourself, while willpower will ensure that you do not relapse into old habits.

Policy makers should ideally try following New Zealand’s footsteps as many have suggested being done worldwide. Others talk about the complete ban on tobacco products to ensure the complete stop of demand and supply chain. Awareness campaigns should be planned and interventions to be undertaken when necessary for the audience.

Several individuals who are on the path to quitting find it more helpful to replace chewing tobacco with a healthier item to munch on. This includes sunflower seeds, beef jerky and chewing gum. These substitutes take the place of tobacco and provide you with something else to chew on and keep yourself distracted from nicotine cravings.

Heavy tobacco users can also consider undergoing a Nicotine Replacement Therapy session. It can help by reducing cravings and lessening the withdrawal symptoms. NRT includes the use of nicotine patches, chewing gums, lozenges, inhalers and sprays to provide a cleaner dose of nicotine without any toxic materials and cancer-causing chemicals.

Doctors can also be willing to prescribe medicines like Champix and Zyban to help a heavy user quit.


Jess Doshi

Jess Doshi is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in Arts. Apart from reading, she makes a conscious effort to do what she can for society. She aims to help the world around her in the best possible way- writing.

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