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Tobacco smoking is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. The 3 billion smokers worldwide are not only putting themselves at risk, but also the non-smokers. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and preventable death in India. Yet millions continue to smoke, leading to the most rapid rise in morbidity and mortality in India, killing nearly 6 million people each year with more than 6,00,000 people dying due to exposure to second-hand smoke.
According to Dr. Murali Mohan B V, Chest Physician, Narayana Mazumdar Shaw Medical Centre, Bengaluru, “Quitting the habit is made more difficult by the physical addiction to nicotine (the chemical stimulant in tobacco). Nicotine is a highly addictive drug that causes strong physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms like other drugs that stimulate the nervous system. Fortunately, medical treatments are now available that can help you control the withdrawal symptoms and cravings. With the treatment significant improvements in the quality of life, daytime symptoms, and bronchial hyper-reactivity can be witnessed.”
Interestingly, female smokers experienced a faster decline in lung function compared with male smokers for the amount of cigarettes they smoked10. However, female smokers experienced larger gains in lung function when they stopped smoking early when compared with male quitters.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is recognized globally as an effective form of treatment to help smokers to quit smoking.
Cigarettes are an effective means of delivering nicotine quickly to the brainstem where it stimulates the release of dopamine via the nicotinic receptors. NRT aims to take away the cravings for cigarettes and mitigate nicotine withdrawal symptoms by providing steady stimulation to the nicotinic receptors and preventing the rapid fluctuations in the release of dopamine in the forebrain.
Further Dr. Murali Mohan B V, mentioned, “When a tobacco user tries to quit, the drop in nicotine level in the blood can cause withdrawal symptoms and intense craving, which causes failure of the smoker’s attempt to quit. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) helps reduce nicotine withdrawal and craving by supplying nicotine, and maintaining the nicotine level. It contains about one-third to one-half the amount of nicotine found in most cigarettes. NRT is a way of getting nicotine into the bloodstream without smoking, thus avoiding withdrawal symptoms while avoiding exposure to all the other harmful chemical in tobacco. There are nicotine gums, patches, inhalers, tablets, lozenges, and sprays. Many clinical trials show NRT can increase the chances of quitting smoking by 50-70% compared to unassisted quitting. Combining NRT with other smoking cessation strategies like bupropion and varenicline and also counselling techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, all increase quit rates safely and effectively”