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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 49  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 327-335

Involvement of health professionals in tobacco control in the South-East Asia Region

1 Department of AIDS Control, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India
2 Tobacco Free Initiative, World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia, India

Correspondence Address:
S Venkatesh
Department of AIDS Control, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-509X.107721

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Tobacco use is widely entrenched in the South-East Asia (SEA) Region leading to high morbidity and mortality in this region. Several studies revealed that tobacco use is widespread among youth and school children. Exposure to second-hand smoke was reported as around 50% or more in three countries - Myanmar (59.5%), Bangladesh (51.3%), and Indonesia (49.6%). Health profession students encompassing medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy disciplines, and even qualified health professionals are no exception from tobacco use. While they are regarded as role models in tobacco cessation programs, their tobacco addiction will carry a negative impact in this endeavour. A mere inquiry about the smoking status of patients and a brief advice by doctors or dentists increases quit rates and prompts those who have not thought about quitting to consider doing so. Evidence from some randomized trials suggests that advice from motivated physicians to their smoking patients could be effective in facilitating cessation of smoking. However, the low detection rate of smokers by many physicians and the small proportion of smokers who routinely receive advice from their physicians to quit have been identified as a matter of concern. This paper describes the role and issues of involvement of health professionals in tobacco control. Data from a variety of sources is used to assess the status. Although there are some differences, tobacco use is widespread among the students and health professional students. Exposure to second hand smoke is also a matter of concern. Tobacco-related problems and tobacco control cut across a vast range of health disciplines. Building alliances among the health professional associations in a vertical way will help synergize efforts, and obtain better outcomes from use of existing resources. Health professional associations in some countries in the SEA region have already taken the initiative to form coalitions at the national level to advance the tobacco control agenda. In Thailand, a Thai Health Professional Alliance against Tobacco, with 17 allies from medical, nursing, traditional medicine, and other health professional organizations, is working in a concerted manner toward promoting tobacco control. Indian Dental Association intervention is another good example.


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