Call counselling hotline to kick the butt

Tata Memorial Centre in Khargar and a unit of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare start State’s first such centre

Those who wish to quit the smoking habit now have a place to call.

The Tata Memorial Centre in Kharghar, in collaboration with the Tobacco Control Division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has started the first-ever Tobacco Quit Line centre in Maharashtra and has counselled close to 3,780 tobacco users in the first fortnight alone.

The toll-free line began operations from January 16. Till January 31, the centre, which caters to tobacco users in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa along with Dadra and Nagar Haveli, received 3,749 calls from men and 31 calls from women. Among these, 1,321 callers consumed tobacco without smoking, 2,268 were smokers while 191 consumed tobacco through both means.

Call counselling hotline to kick the butt


The unit has 10 staff members, including a supervisor and counsellors. Depending on the area from where the person calls, the call gets diverted. “Delhi and Bengaluru already have the centres. In Guwahati, it was unveiled in December and now in Maharashtra, it has been launched at the Centre for Cancer Epidemiology (CCE) building of the Tata Memorial Centre,” Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, deputy director, CCE, said.

How it works

A counsellor at the unit said they first understand the caller’s background, his or her habits, frequency of smoking and the time when they usually get the craving to smoke. The caller is advised to drink two warm glasses of water with lime on an empty stomach first thing in the morning to flush out the toxins. Depending on the number of times she smokes or consumes tobacco, various methods are recommended to get rid of the addiction without medicines. Every caller is asked to fix a ‘quit date’ and to slowly reduce the frequency. “We make follow-up calls, two days prior to the quit date, as a reminder,” the counsellor said. Of the 3,780 callers, a quit date has been set for 1,864.

“Tobacco users are at high risk of developing various non-communicable diseases (NCD), including cancer. Close to 40% cancer deaths in our country are related to smoking,” Dr. Rajesh Dikshit, director, CCE, said. As per the Global Tobacco Adult Survey, tobacco consumption is at 29% in India. One-third of the deaths in the country, close to 13 lakh, are related to tobacco. “NCD deaths due to tobacco use are at 22.4% for men and 7.3% for women,” he said. Dr. Dikshit is hopeful that at least 5% of the callers will quit smoking with the help of counselling.

Sudeep Gupta, director of the Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC), said, “Tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive and hence, the habit is hard to quit. This is a service one can get from anywhere free of cost without anyone knowing. The person’s identity will be confidential.”

The Tobacco Control Division has granted ₹62 lakh for a year to the Maharashtra unit, of which funds for the first six months have been released. “Depending on the response we get, the remaining funds will be released. We have been getting close to 200 calls on an average,” Dr. Atul Budukh, assistant professor, CCE, said. “Due to the good response, we will now appoint 10 more people in this unit. We have staff who know Marathi, Hindi, English and Konkani. All of them have received training from Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute in Delhi, wherein the first unit was started around two years ago.”

For those who may want to call the centre, the toll-free number is 1800112356

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