COVID-19: Tobacco control organisations raise awareness on quitting smoking


From mass media campaigns to thematic webinars, organisations working for tobacco control in India are urging smokers to quit at a time when the country is reeling under the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marking the World No Tobacco Day on Monday, global health organisation Vital Strategies launched a nation-wide campaign When You Quit which will urge people who smoke to kick the butt. In a statement, the organisation also said the campaign “highlights multiple benefits of quitting tobacco and brings to fore the heightened risk of COVID-19 for tobacco users”.

COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus in many cases attacks the lungs of a patient and shortness of breath is one of the common symptoms of the disease.

Doctors have been emphasising that in the second wave, more youth were getting infected compared to their affliction in the previous wave of the pandemic last year.


Many doctors have underlined that a smokers lungs are already damaged and so makes them vulnerable to infection from coronavirus.

“India is in the midst of a virulent second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent World Health Organization (WHO) and the government of India guidelines state that tobacco use puts people with chronic conditions, including lung disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer at a higher risk for developing severe illness or death when affected by COVID-19,” Vital Strategies said in the statement.

The organisation in its statement claimed that the WHO has supported the campaign which explains how smoking cigarettes or bidi (rolled tobacco) can cause heart attack and may also increase the risk of severe COVID-19, it said.

Developed in multiple Indian languages and to be aired across 15 states on various platforms, the campaign also depicts the health benefits tobacco users experience when they quit, it said. It aligns with this years World No Tobacco Day theme Commit to Quit and urges people to quit tobacco using the National Tobacco Quitline (1800-11-2356) for resources and help, the statement said.

Also, to mark World No Tobacco Day, a webinar was organised by a tobacco control foundation, during which leading experts laid emphasis on “how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a strengthening of resolve among tobacco users in their commitment to quit”, a spokesperson of the foundation said. Salaam Mumbai Foundation started in 2007 to create tobacco-free schools across Maharashtra, hosted the webinar on Saturday.

The panel constituted of eminent speakers such as Dr L Swasticharan from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Prakash C Gupta from Healis Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, Dr Pratima Murthy from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIIMHANS) Bengaluru, among others.

Pratima Murthy, professor of psychiatry and head of the department at NIMHANS, highlighted certain important aspects of the cessation programme during Covid times and how it has impacted all those who wanted to quit smoking.

Our counsellors shifted from centre-based counselling to home in lockdown, so we were able to exploit technology to make sure whatever calls landed on our system were diverted to the counsellors, and they were able to run it from their homes,” she was quoted as saying in a statement by the foundation.

Titled Tobacco Cessation in India: Policies, Practices and Challenges, the webinar highlighted the importance of tobacco cessation policies in the country and looked at different modalities of cessation being practised along with the challenges faced, it said.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Monday tweeted on the occasion: “Covid has made everyone realise the true meaning of life. Dont let it wither away in smoke. Smoking doesnt only take away ones life but also harms people around. Quit smoking & give life a chance. #WorldNoTobaccoDay2021 #NoTobaccoDay”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)