Switching to smokeless alternatives can result in 70% reduction in related cancer deaths: Experts

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New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) Switching to smokeless alternatives like nicotine replacement therapy can result in a 70 per cent reduction in related cancer deaths, experts said on Wednesday.

Tobacco is a significant contributor to the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

As per recent data, an alarming 1.4 million cancer cases were recorded in 2022, marking India as a hotspot for this life-threatening disease.

Professor R Zimlichman from Tel Aviv University said implementing harm reduction policies, by drawing inspiration from global success stories, countries like Sweden, Japan, and the UK, can result in a notable decline in smoking rates and associated cancer cases.

“While quitting smoking is the ideal scenario to prevent cancer, the reality is that millions struggle to quit. Harm reduction provides a pragmatic and potentially life-saving alternative,” Zimlichman said.

One in nine Indians will develop cancer in their lifetime, with tobacco being the leading culprit.

Yet, India ranks second in Asia for cancer burden despite adhering to WHO tobacco control policies. The answer lies in finding alternatives, not just outright bans.

Sweden’s smoking rate plummeted from 15 per cent to a remarkable 5.6 per cent over 15 years, marking it on the verge of being ‘smoke-free’ and boasting a 41 per cent lower cancer incidence compared to the EU.

In Japan, the smoking rate witnessed a sharp decrease between 2016 and 2019, with almost three in 10 Japanese smokers quitting cigarettes. Following these success stories, Norway recently announced plans to legalise nicotine-containing alternatives in 2024.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) includes nicotine patch, inhalers, chewing gum, dissolvable tablets that release nicotine and nasal spray.

“Success stories, such as Norway’s recent decision to legalise nicotine-containing alternatives, underline the importance of harm reduction in averting the impact of tobacco on cancer,” said Dr Chandrakant S Pandav, Padma Shri Awardee, Global Public Health Expert, Iodine Man of India.

Acknowledging the critical role harm reduction plays in steering away from the grip of cancer is paramount, he noted.

With millions facing the grip of tobacco addiction, harm reduction presents a pragmatic path forward. It empowers individuals with safer choices, paving the way for a healthier future.



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