Thank you for not smoking: Run a positive campaign

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The prevalence of tobacco use in India is very high in India as shown by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India (GATS India) 2009-2010, more than one-third (35%) of adults in India use tobacco in some form or the other. Of these, 21% adults use only smokeless tobacco, 9% only smoke and 5% smoke as well as use smokeless tobacco. The survey also showed that 52% of adults were exposed to second-hand smoke (SHS) at home.

Tobacco use is associated with many adverse health effects and is a major preventable cause of morbidity and mortality. As per the CDC, smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times, for stroke by 2 to 4 times, lung cancer by about 25 times. In addition, it reduces quality of life, and increases health care utilization and cost. India has a ‘National Tobacco Control Programme’ in place to make the public aware about the harmful effects of tobacco use, control tobacco consumption and minimize the deaths.

“Smoking kills” has been the message that has been conveyed in the campaigns on tobacco control with the expectation that highlighting the potentially life-threatening health consequences would deter people from smoking or using tobacco products. It’s time to alter the tone of such public health campaigns, from negative to positive. Quite often, we may rebuke a patient for failing in his efforts to quit smoking and say, “If you do not quit, you may die”. A statement worded as this may inadvertently sound discouraging to the patient. While it is important that people know the dangers of smoking or using tobacco products, a positive communication approach may have a more fruitful impact than a critical approach.

Avoid violent communication. Do not condemn, criticise and complaint, the 3 Cs of violent communication. Instead use a nonviolent communication approach to help and support your patient in his efforts to give up smoking. Tell your patient, who is trying to quit smoking or other tobacco products “Thank you for not smoking”. Appreciate the hard work put in by him and his perseverance. This way the patient knows that he has your support and will have trust and faith in you. The chances that the patient would adhere to the lifestyle modifications are higher if communicated in an empathetic and supportive manner. IMA is committed to working closely with all National Health Programs alongside the government. As individual doctors, we too can contribute to the success of National Tobacco Control Program. Counsel your patients who smoke about quitting smoking but with a difference… Turn a negative situation to a more positive action.

Dr KK Aggarwal
National President IMA & HCFI