72% tobacco users in India attempted to quit during lockdown: Survey

New Delhi: A total of 72 per cent of India’s combustible tobacco users between the ages of 18-24 years old have attempted to quit smoking during the lockdown, followed by 69 per cent of combustible tobacco users between the ages of 25-39, suggests a recent survey conducted by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

Around 66 per cent of those surveyed (ages 18-69) expressed their desire to quit smoking amid COVID-19 for health reasons. A total of 6,801 tobacco and nicotine users in five countries – India, the US, the UK, Italy, and South Africa - were interviewed for the survey, during the period starting April 4 and ending April 14, 2020.

In India, two-thirds of the 1,500 smokers surveyed expressed their desire to quit smoking for health reasons. While 66 per cent indicated that they had considered quitting, 63 per cent had actually made a quit attempt, says the survey titled COVID -19 State of Smoking Poll.

“Reports of increased stress and anxiety are consistent among the countries we polled, but the response in India — particularly among younger tobacco and nicotine users — stands out, with significant attempts to quit and adoption of healthier coping mechanisms,” said Dr. Derek Yach, President of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. He added, “We need more research to understand why that is, and how we can encourage this type of behaviour in other countries.”

Social distancing is resulting in a broad range of negative mental health impacts, with significant numbers of respondents reporting suffering an adverse effect on their mental health (India: 36 per cent; the US: 42 per cent; the UK: 39 per cent; Italy: 24 per cent; South Africa: 24 per cent).

While a majority of respondents in India normally turn to tobacco or nicotine products as a coping mechanisms for stress (58 per cent), a significant amount have decreased their use during social distancing (46 per cent). This indicates that social distancing has most likely not increased the smoking crisis locally.

Tobacco and nicotine users in India have proven more likely than those in other countries to increase their use of healthy coping mechanisms during the COVID-19 crisis (physical exercise, 64 per cent; breathing exercises, 58 per cent; meditation, 58 per cent; yoga, 55 per cent). The tendency toward healthier habits is more pronounced in larger cities (use of meditation in major metros, 50 per cent; use of meditation in Tier 2 cities, 40 per cent; use of meditation in Tier 3 cities, 37 per cent), says the survey.

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