Pharmaceutical companies play up the use of anti-tobacco aids, which makes quitting smoking without help seem impossible……….. But it’s not, T.V. Jayan points out
Are the global efforts to kick the butt dimmed by distortion and deception? Perhaps, says tobacco control expert Simon Chapman.
A public health researcher at the University of Sydney, Chapman — who wrote more than a dozen tomes on tobacco control — has unearthed a disturbing trend in smoking cessation attempts. The pharmaceutical industry has been trying to create the false impression that attempting to quit smoking without medicines or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is futile, reveal Chapman and his colleague Ross McKenzie. Their article appeared in the journal PLoS Medicine last week.
With the industry proclaiming that “willpower alone is not enough to quit”, smokers may think it’s useless to try to kick the habit without any aid, they say.
“The aim should be to encourage attempts to quit smoking, and not constantly describe it as difficult. The process has become overly medicalised for many,” Chapman told KnowHOW.
Not surprisingly, nearly two-third to three-quarters of those who quit smoking did so without any professional or therapeutic help, he adds. This, even though anti-tobacco drugs — such as bupropion and varenicline — and NRT products like patches, gum and lozenges have been in the market for more than 25 years.
NRT, medicines and professional counselling or support may help many smokers, but are not necessary for quitting, asserts Chapman.
According to experts, the cold-turkey method — where you progressively reduce the number of cigarettes before stopping completely — is still the most preferred approach. And campaigners are pleased that in a growing number of countries, there are now more non-smokers than smokers.
Chapman and McKenzie, who analysed more than 660 papers on smoking cessation published in 2007 and 2008, found that the industry and many tobacco control researchers have conveniently neglected the power of unaided cessation. On the other hand, there has been an attempt to play up the benefits of pharmacological intervention.
The study also brought to light a bias in research on assisted cessation. While industry-supported research showed that quit-smoking medicines and NRT products have a 51 per cent efficiency, independent studies said the impact was just 22 per cent.
“Because of these attitudes, smoking cessation is becoming increasingly pathologised, a development that risks distorting public awareness of how most smokers quit, to the obvious benefit of the pharmaceutical companies,” say the researchers.
The study comes at a good time, when India is embarking on a major tobacco control campaign. In the last week of January, the Union cabinet approved a Rs 182-crore tobacco control programme. The project — which would cover 42 districts in 21 states — is expected to step up public awareness of the ill effects of tobacco use by setting up testing labs and conducting adult tobacco surveys over the next two years.
Sadly, India has one of the poorest rates of quitting: only about 2 per cent of the smoking population is able to kick the habit annually.
Chapman’s views are echoed by Prakash Chopra, a tobacco control expert and director of the Healis-Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, Mumbai. Chopra strongly believes that there is a need to publicise the fact that most smokers quit without any aid.
“It isn’t enough for public health policymakers to simply stress this fact; they must also assist unassisted cessation,” he says. This can be done by allocating funds for initiating and enforcing policies in this direction, he suggests.
Chapman points out that most of the government money for tobacco control is spent in support of NRT or similar strategies rather than in aiding unassisted cessation. The criticism seems more than valid, as within a couple of days of publishing his paper many experts from all over the world came up with similar views.
Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research in Canada, however, believes that pharmaceutical aids do help, though only for a brief while. “These aids double the effectiveness of smoking cessation attempts from a quit rate of about 3 per cent to up to 8 per cent in the following six months. It is true that a vast number of quitters quit cold turkey. But pharmaceutical drugs do help, and if they help more smokers to quit, it’s a good thing,” says Jha.
According to Jha, there is another way out of the haze — tobacco products should be taxed higher. In developing countries, a 10 per cent higher price, it has been found, results in about 3 to 4 per cent of smokers quitting, and another 3 to 4 per cent of individuals not taking up the habit, he says.
Higher prices and then drugs and therapy — why not use your willpower and save your health as well as money?
Drinking very hot tea appears to increase the risk of oesophageal cancer, a new study has shown, prompting suggestions for a four-minute wait before swallows of freshly boiled tea.
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The study from northern Iran, the largest so far to explore tea-drinking habits and oesophageal cancer, has corroborated earlier research from India, Singapore and South America that linked this cancer to hot beverages.
Researchers from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences studied tea-drinking habits and patterns of oesophageal cancer in Golestan province where black tea is popular. They found that people who consumed very hot tea (defined as 70°C or higher) had an eight-fold higher risk of oesophageal cancer than people who drank tepid tea (65°C or lower).
They found that drinking tea at temperatures between 65°C and 69°C — defined as simply hot — was associated with twice the risk of cancer of the oesophagus. Their research will appear in the British Medical Journal on Friday.
“It’s clear hot beverages are contributing to high levels of oesophageal cancer in this population, Paul Brennan, a research team member from the International Agency for Research in Cancer in Lyons, France, told The Telegraph.
“But other factors may be associated with oesophageal cancer in other populations,” said Brennan, head of genetic epidemiology unit at the IARC. “We need to investigate different factors in different regions or populations.”
The Iranian study also showed that waiting for tea to cool lowered the risk of the cancer. People who typically drank their tea within two minutes after it was poured had a five-fold higher risk than those who waited for four minutes or longer.
Although previous studies have pointed to the potential danger of hot beverages, Iranian digestive disorder specialist Reza Malekzadeh and his colleagues are among the first to investigate the link through rigorous temperature measurements.
Malekzadeh said the significance of the new research was in the use of statistical techniques to eliminate the effects of other risk factors that could also contribute to oesophageal cancer.
But doctors assert that there is no cause for alarm. “The public health message here is that people should wait four minutes before they begin sipping from a cup of hot tea,” Malekzadeh told The Telegraph.
Eight years ago, Rup Kumar Phukan and his colleagues at the Regional Medical Research Centre, Dibrugarh, Assam, had examined dietary habits in parts of northeastern India and shown that hot beverages and spicy food were linked to oesophageal cancer.
They had suggested that the long-term consumption of exceptionally hot food or beverages could cause chronic irritation and harm the lining of the oesophagus. “But chewing tobacco and smoking are also likely to be among the contributing factors in this region,” said a scientist at the Dibrugarh centre.
The Iranian study measured tea temperatures consumed by more than 48,500 people and studied tea-drinking habits of 300 patients with oesophageal cancer and 571 healthy people, emerging as the largest study on the topic.
Speculating on mechanisms to explain the link, the researchers have pointed out that chronic inflammation by high temperatures may stimulate the release of nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species — potentially harmful biomolecules.
Doctors caution that cancer is almost always a multi-factorial disease. The risk may be lowered or increased by several factors. Low consumption of fruits and vegetables, for instance, may increase the risk of cancer.
If you had always thought that puffing is dangerous to only the active and passive smokers, think again, as ‘third hand smoking‘ can even lead to cancer.
The toxic particles emitted in the smoke of a cigarette get clinged to the place you stay much after your cigarette is over and it can very well affect your children’s health as you try to smoke in their absence, a new study said.
“There are carcinogens in this third-hand smoke, and they are a cancer risk for anybody of any age who comes into contact with them, said Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician.
Experts have identified this smoking-related threat to children’s health, which has been termed as third-hand smoke.
“Everyone knows that second-hand smoke is bad, but they don’t know about this,” the lead author of the study, Jonathan P Winickoff, also a pediatrician said.
These toxic particles also remain attached to the smoker’s clothing or hair or upholstery. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re crawling or playing on the floor.
“When their kids are out of the house, they might smoke. Or they smoke in the car. Or they strap the kid in the car seat in the back and crack the window and smoke, and they think it’s okay because the second-hand smoke isn’t getting to their kids,” Dr. Winickoff continued. “We needed a term to describe these tobacco toxins that aren’t visible.”
Doctors from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston coined the term “third-hand smoke” to describe these chemicals in a new study that focused on the risks they pose to infants and children.
“The central message here is that simply closing the kitchen door to take a smoke is not protecting the kids from the effects of that smoke,” Landrigan said.
“The manufacturers say it does not contain the drug nicotine but rather a mix of roots from South African plants which is said to give ‘a slight energising effect, followed by a euphoric sense of calming and relaxation,” the newspaper said.
‘Liquid Smoking’ would cost about 1.50 pounds in the shops and would have less than 21 calories in every 275 ml can.
Meanwhile, The Guardian in a recent report about the drink said, “Coming in a can reminiscent of a cigarette packet, it has a box proclaiming ‘no warning needed’ where a health warning would be on a packet of cigarettes“.
Quoting United Drinks Chief Executive Martin Hartman, The Telegraph said, “The product we (United Drinks) have developed has got similar properties to nicotine, so we are trying to help people out who are affected by the ban on nicotine.
People might use this instead of a cigarette or tobacco to help the cravings.”
Martin Hartman was further quoted as saying “it will take the edge off of a need for nicotine for between one to four hours… I think it will help people who feel the need for nicotine in bars, restaurants, long-haul flights and on the train,” Martin Hartman added.