Tamil Nadu

No impact on availability of tobacco products during lockdown, finds study

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The effect of last year’s COVID-19 lockdown was felt in many ways but it had little or no impact on the availability of tobacco products. A survey among tobacco users found that nearly 60% reported easy availability of tobacco products during the lockdown.

The researchers also found an encouraging trend: nearly two-thirds of tobacco users reported a reduction in tobacco use and an intention to quit.

With an aim of assessing tobacco use, accessibility of tobacco products and quitting behaviour during the lockdown, the Tobacco Cessation Clinic (TCC) of Cancer Institute took up a cross-sectional assessment among current tobacco users in Tamil Nadu.

The researchers carried out a telephone survey using a structured questionnaire during April-May 2020 to understand the effect of the lockdown on tobacco use and quitting behaviour. This was recently published in International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases.

V. Surendran, associate professor and head of Psycho-Oncology and Resource Centre for Tobacco Control, Cancer Institute, said the primary objective was to study the access to tobacco and change in behaviour of tobacco users during the complete lockdown in the State.

The study population included tobacco users aged more than 15 years enrolled with TCC from January 2018 to December 2019. Of the 1,501 tobacco users who attended TCC, 991 were cancer patients and excluded from the study. Of the remaining 510, 281 were contacted by phone and 251 consented to the interview. The remaining could not be contacted for reasons including phone number not recorded, no response and incorrect number. A total of 101 were current tobacco users.

More than half of them — 56% — reported easy availability of tobacco products. Nearly two-thirds purchased tobacco products daily from shops during the lockdown. While 27% had stocks of tobacco, the remaining 6% obtained tobacco from peers, according to the study.

Gross violations

The easy availability of tobacco products pointed to gross violations of lockdown regulations in the face of a strict ban on the sale of tobacco products in the city, the researchers said.

A total of 65 tobacco users reported reduction of tobacco use during the lockdown, the use remained the same in 20 and increased in 16 of them. Nearly two-thirds reported an intention to quit during the lockdown. Of them, 6% sought help/consultation and 38% made a quit attempt during the lockdown. Only 15% had the urge to increase tobacco use during the lockdown.

Talking about the reduction in tobacco use and intention to quit, the researchers cited a recent study that showed that a third of the smokers were motivated to quit due to the higher risk of contracting COVID-19 as a smoker and greater social support to quit. They also addressed the issue of tobacco users making an unsuccessful attempt to quit during the lockdown as very few of them could get help or consultation, probably due to the lack of cessation services during the period.

App in the works

While the findings are leading the TCC team to develop an exclusive tobacco cessation app, they also call for efforts from the government to promote and strengthen support services for tobacco cessation and implementation of vendor licensing for tobacco sale.

“The mobile app is to assist persons to quit tobacco. It will have features to measure the addiction level, provide guidance to quit, automatic reminders for interventional measures. If the person falls back and needs to consult, the app will assist in connecting them to us,” Dr. Surendran explained.

The State government, while focussing on tobacco control and prevention, should encourage cessation services as there is a lack of such services, he added.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 1:07:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/no-impact-on-availability-of-tobacco-products-during-lockdown-finds-study/article33599218.ece

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