More than half smokers in India have tried to quit unsuccessfully, reveals data

More than 104 million people in India alone continue to imperil their health by using combusted tobacco every day


New Delhi: Despite nearly seven of 10 smokers in India being aware that smoking is dangerous, 53 percent have been unsuccessful in their attempts to quit, new data released by Foundation for a Smoke-Free World showed. This makes it clear that new cessation and harm-reduction options are needed to help smokers live longer and healthier lives.

“The data show what we have anecdotally known for decades– that many smokers have the desire to quit, but not the means to match it,” said Derek Yach, President of Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, who was deeply involved with the development of the world’s treaty on tobacco control, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and served as the Executive Director for non-communicable diseases and mental health at the World Health Organization.

More findings in India include:

68% of smokers report that they are “well informed” about the impact of smoking on one’s health.
51% of smokers said they are planning to quit.
41% of smokers who tried to quit said they would need assistance to do so.
25% of smokers are using e-cigarette or vaping device to cut down smoking

The data which is a part of a global survey of 17,000 participants in 13 countries suggest enormous challenges in creating a one-size fits all approach to smoking cessation across the globe. It is clear: Smokers are sacrificing their physical and economic well-being to smoke, even though many of them have the desire to quit.

Foundation for a Smoke-Free World will fund innovative research to discover new cessation and harm-reduction tools that will save additional lives.

“In the two years since the Royal College of Physicians found that ‘harm reduction has huge potential to prevent death and disability from tobacco use,’ we continue to largely ignore the fact that many smokers do not want to quit and obtain pleasure from smoking. Harm-reduction advancements are literally a matter of life or death for these people,” said Dr Yach.

More than 104 million people in India alone continue to imperil their health by using combusted tobacco every day. Bidis, which are a type of low-cost and hand-rolled cigarettes that are locally made in India, account for a significant proportion of tobacco use in India. Their popularity is attributed to lower tax excise than conventional cigarettes or to tax evasion altogether. This suggests that control measures applied in India may have to be distinct from those applied to other countries in order to accelerate the rate of smoking cessation and harm reduction in India.

“As evidenced by the situation in India and around the globe, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do,” said Dr Yach.

The Foundation is taking a new approach to help smokers quit or reduce their risks. It is listening to the smokers and looking, through their eyes, at the challenges they face as they try to quit. It is committed to funding a research agenda that prioritizes new methods of harm reduction and cessation to fulfill the FCTC, while importantly responding to the behavioral and health needs of smokers who struggle to quit.