Wider access to nicotine replacement therapy may help curb smoking: Doctors

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New Delhi, Oct 05 (IANS) More widespread access to Nicotine Replacement Therapy, a crucial tool in the fight against smoking for over 25 years, may help in tobacco cessation in India, said doctors on Thursday.

Tobacco addiction remains a global menace, responsible for one death every six seconds worldwide and over a million deaths in India alone, constituting 9.5 per cent of all fatalities.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) offers a 50 per cent higher probability of quitting smoking compared to attempting to quit without it, and it is both safe and readily available without the need for a prescription.

Dr. Chandrakant S Pandav, former Head of Department, Community Medicine, at AIIMS, New Delhi, emphasised on the pressing need for improved access to tobacco cessation methods in India.

“Tobacco use affects 28.6 per cent of adults in the country, with a particularly significant impact on 42 per cent of men and 14.2 per cent women. Challenges continue to exist in difficult geographic locations and rural areas, highlighting the importance of making NRT accessible over the counter,” said the Padma Shri recipient, at an event held at the national Capital.

Dr. Pandav said that he believes “easier access to NRT without prescriptions empowers individuals to quit smoking.”

Nicotine, the primary addictive component in cigarettes, delivers rapid pleasurable effects through smoking. NRT, on the other hand, serves as a temporary replacement for a small quantity of nicotine, controlling cravings, alleviating withdrawal symptoms and facilitating the transition to tobacco abstinence.

Unlike cigarettes, NRT provides a gradual and very small increase in blood nicotine levels, which discourages misuse.

The aim of NRT is to enable people to quit smoking with the help of nicotine delivery systems with reduced addictiveness.

“Tobacco dependence is a mind-body addiction. We need to address both the physiology and psychology of addiction in proper perspective, to be effective. To ensure the success of our smoking cessation endeavours, we should concentrate on enhanced access to NRT,” said Dr Sajeela Maini, Head, Tobacco Cessation, De-addiction, Mental Health Expert, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

Dr Maini called for a multi-pronged approach to arrest the most globally widespread menace of tobacco addictions.

“Tobacco cessation is still in its infancy in India. We need to educate the public pro-actively about scientifically-backed options like NRT to assist them in quitting smoking and thus prevent them from developing tobaccosis – spectrum of diseases caused by smoking, and chewing of tobacco,” she said.

Dr. Pandav also pointed to research conducted in 2023, such as the one in Odisha, which demonstrated the efficacy of NRT in halting smokeless tobacco use.

Another recent study in Bengaluru also highlighted the effectiveness of combining NRT with behavioural counselling in reducing cigarette smoking.

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