Israel's leading cardiologist stresses need for innovative global harm-reduction strategies to combat smoking-related cardiovascular disease in India

National |  IANS  | Published :

New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) Distinguished international experts at a recent symposium held at AIIMS, New Delhi, addressed the escalating global concern of smoking-related cardiovascular diseases.

The experts also emphasised the pressing need to address smoking-related cardiovascular diseases through innovative harm-reduction strategies. 

The event featured insightful deliberations by Professor R. Zimlichman, Director of the Brunner Institute of Cardiovascular Research, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Israel. 

Professor Zimlichman, Member of the Board of Directors of the Israeli Society for the Prevention of Acute Myocardial Infarction, provided an international perspective, saying, “Smoking continues to plague our global health, with over a billion individuals partaking it. Despite clear ramifications, many find themselves enslaved to their addiction.”

Centred on harm reduction, Prof Zimlichman noted successful examples in countries like the UK, Japan, and the USA, where comprehensive policies and awareness campaigns have resulted in a subsequent decline in smoking rates. Hence, emphasising the need for similar strategies in India.

Prof Zimlichman explained, “The new shifts today aim at saving through safer alternatives. Devices that heat, instead of burning tobacco, lead to significantly less damage. Nicotine, though addictive, hasn’t shown direct harm in conventional usage. The shift towards harm reduction is positive, provided it’s backed by long-term research and evaluation.”

Indicating Japan's success in adopting non-combustible tobacco devices, Prof Zimlichman stated, “A shift to these devices resulted in a smoking rate decline by an average of 5.2 per cent, with a significant reduction in the disease burden attributable to smoking. These promising results signify the potential for harm reduction strategies.”

At the symposium, India's specific healthcare challenges related to smoking and cardiovascular diseases were discussed at length. 

The need for immediate nationwide smoking cessation programmes was highlighted, along with an emphasis on comprehensive research into alternative solutions tailored to the Indian context. 

The importance of government collaboration in developing evidence-based policies to support harm reduction was also highlighted.

Dr Mohsin Wali, Senior Consultant, Cardiology, Sir Gangaram Hospital, and a Padma Shri Awardee, veered the discussion towards India’s specific needs, stressing, “Smoking-related cardiovascular diseases cast a worrying shadow on India’s public health. It’s high time for immediate initiation of national comprehensive smoking cessation programmes.” 

Dr Wali also emphasised the need for extensive research on alternatives from an Indian perspective, saying: “We need the government to foster collaborations for formulating evidence-based policies promoting harm reduction.”

Dr Wali also advocated for wide-scale awareness campaigns, stating, “We firmly believe that by promptly implementing these recommendations, India can significantly mitigate risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases, steering the nation towards a healthier future.”

Dr Kanwal Preet Kochhar, Professor and Head, In-charge of Cognitive Neurophysiology & Nutrition Lab, Department of Physiology, AIIMS, New Delhi, and Co-chair of the symposium, offered valuable insights into the broader context of health challenges in India. 

“Even in India, we witness young adults in their 30s and 35s experiencing health issues, often due to imbalanced and excessive lifestyles. The evolution of initiatives addressing multiple components like stress management, addiction, environment, exercise, and diet into a global youth programme for tobacco control reflects the interconnectedness of health challenges in India and the need for holistic approaches,” she said.

The symposium highlighted the global concern of smoking-related cardiovascular diseases and showcased innovative strategies to address this pressing health challenge. 

The experts’ consensus emphasised the importance of evidence-based policies, collaborative efforts, and robust awareness campaigns to create a healthier, smoking-free future.

Through this symposium, the joint call for governmental and societal intervention put forth by the experts outlines a clear roadmap towards combating the global and national health threat imposed by smoking and the associated cardiovascular diseases. 

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