World No Tobacco Day: How To Help The Underprivileged Fight Their Addiction

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When was the last time you saw an anti-smoking advertisement that horrifically showed how painfully your life is cut short when you have one puff too many? Or even saw the grotesque and unmissable pictorial warning on a pack of cigarettes? Pretty recently, right? And I bet it stuck somewhere in your head too. Sadly, it turns out that reality hasn’t fazed a lot of people, because smoking is on the rise globally. It not only causes scores of people to die prematurely, but it also hampers a country’s economy and development. And in a poor country like India, things are a lot worse.

Why? Because according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Tobacco use costs national economies enormously through increased health-care costs and decreased productivity. It worsens health inequalities and exacerbates poverty, as the poorest people spend less on essentials such as food, education, and health care. Some 80% of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low- or middle-income countries, which face increased challenges in achieving their development goals.”

It is thus our moral responsibility to help our poor brothers and sisters. For the educated masses are already aware of the perils of smoking, but our poor countrymen are not quite fully aware. Even if they are, they don’t have the privilege to check into rehab and deaddiction centers, do they?

So without further ado, let’s take a look at what you can do to help them out:

1. Empower and terrify them with awareness

This sounds beyond obvious, but hear me out. Pretty much everyone–including the poor–knows that smoking is not good for them. But do they know the extent of damage it does to their bodies? Sample this: According to an oncologist from Apollo Hospitals, “35% of the total cancers in India are from the head and neck region as compared to 5-8% in the western world. India accounts for more than one-fourth of world’s head and neck cancer burden hence aptly being named as an “Indian Cancer,” No prizes for guessing that the most common reason for head neck cancers is a) tobacco and b) alcohol.

Tobacco includes smokeless tobacco like gutka and paan, and smoking tobacco like cigarettes and bidis – which are way worse than cigarettes owing to their higher nicotine content. (Read what the doctor has to say here). Fear (of death, sickness, poverty, etc.) is a great motivator to get people to make positive changes in their lives. However, this only works if you give them hope of recovery and a better life. So don’t forget to conclude with a positive message that they can not only get through this, they will also be doing a huge favor for themselves and their loved ones.

2. Teach them psychological hacks to kick the habit

Getting rid of a bad habit by going cold turkey is something most people struggle with. Sometimes, it even increases the addiction instead of reducing it. For most people, switching a bad habit with something else–say a lesser evil or a good habit–is far more effective. You could help them throw down that cigarette or bidi with a nicotine patch. Not only is it not overly expensive, but it will also help reduce their withdrawal symptoms. You could also give them nicotine-based chewing gums and herbal tablets as a way to reduce their number of puffs per day.

Psychiatrist Dr. Trivedi shares a few tips:
-Be open, tell your family, friends that you are not going to smoke and need their help to ensure you stay the course.
-Write down your triggers for smoking and make sure you discuss them with your doctor and therapist, not just once, but as often as you can.
-Find joy in things other than smoking. For eg, taking up a hobby you always wanted to pursue is a great distraction.
-And like combating any other health problem, have a daily routine, don’t skip meals and eat healthy, and get regular exercise. Good food and ample exercise will give you the mental and physical strength you need to kick the butt.  

Remember, there will be days when you relapse. It is only natural that you will fail a couple of times. Do not quit when you do. Persist.

3. If none of the above work, point them to the nearest deaddiction center

So you did your best, but it didn’t work. Maybe it’s time to give them expert help instead. There are a number of de-addiction centers that help people recover without charging them a fee. (If you can’t find a center in your area, click here). However, your job isn’t just done here. They need someone to be accountable to and who better than you to do this deed? Stay in touch with them to keep tabs on whether they are doing as instructed at the center.

Tobacco addiction can be hard to get rid of, but not impossible. If all of us take steps to help our poor, they won’t have to die in a painful and tragic manner.   

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