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Mobile Scheme to Quit Tobacco
- 27 Jul 2019
- 4 min read
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) report on global tobacco epidemic, launched in July 2019 makes a special reference about mCessation programme and other initiatives of India for helping smokers quit.
- The 2019 report is the seventh in a series that tracks the status of tobacco epidemic and interventions to combat it.
- Released in Brazil, the report states that India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products, with more than 200 million users of smokeless tobacco and 276 million consumers of tobacco overall.
- The programme has shown strong outcomes in terms of health and outreach, and provides a huge opportunity to help several million tobacco users who want to quit.
- In 2017, a Global Adult Tobacco Survey found that 38.5 percent of adult smokers and 33.2 per cent adult users of smokeless forms of tobacco had attempted to quit, the report noted.
About mCessation Programme
- It is an initiative using mobile technology for tobacco cessation.
- India launched mCessation using text messages in 2016 as part of the government’s Digital India initiative. It uses two-way messaging between the individual seeking to quit tobacco use and programme specialists providing them dynamic support.
- The National Tobacco Control Programme and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with support from the WHO and the International Telecommunication Union’s ‘Be He@lthy, Be mobile’ initiative, implemented the programme.
Be He@lthy, Be mobile’ initiative
- Be He@lthy, Be Mobile initiative harnesses the power and reach of mobile phones to address the noncommunicable disease (NCD) risk factors by educating people to make healthier lifestyle choices to help prevent and manage NCDs via their phones.
- The initiative uses mobile phone technology to deliver disease prevention and management information directly to mobile phone users, and strengthens health systems by providing training to health workers.
- The programme allows people who want to quit tobacco use to register by giving a missed call to a dedicated national number.
- The programme’s progress is monitored in real-time through an online dashboard that details the number of registrations.
- Till date, the programme has over 2.1 million self-registered users.
- An evaluation conducted by the Health ministry found an average quitting rate of 7 per cent for both smokers and users of smokeless tobacco six months after enrollment.
- The government has recently released version-2 of the “mTobaccoCessation” platform, which can deliver content through SMS or interactive voice response in 12 languages.
- MCessation should be included in PHC (Primary Health Care)-level advice to enable maximum reach.
- Since 2007, the Union Health ministry is pushing to introduce stronger graphic health warnings on tobacco packets, with mixed success.
Significance of graphic warning on tobacco packs
- Over half the world’s population - or 3.9 billion people living in 91 countries - benefit from large graphic health warnings, and India is among the countries with the highest level of achievement, the WHO report notes.
- While there has been no India-specific evaluation, studies from several countries that introduced similar strong labels have shown that this policy has been most effective in reducing tobacco use among the youth, and also in motivating users to quit.