The death toll of patients infected by tuberculosis can easily be lowered by providing counselling on tobacco use, according to a study conducted by non-profit organisation ARK Foundation.
Of the 350,000 people who get affected by the infectious disease in Bangladesh every year, over 70,000 die, the study found.
Dr Rumana Huque, executive director of ARK Foundation, presented the findings of the study at a dissemination seminar titled "Tobacco cessation within TB [tuberculosis] Programme," held at a Dhaka hotel on Sunday, said a press release.
The study, funded by the European Union, further revealed that 18 percent of tuberculosis patients are smokers. At least one in every three male patients smoke and the risk of death doubles among patients who are smokers.
A brief counselling session provided by healthcare providers can play a vital role in helping patients quit smoking. This kind of support for tobacco cessation can annually help 14,000 tuberculosis patients to quit tobacco, the study recommended.
Md Saidur Rahman, additional secretary (World Health) of the Health Services Division at the health ministry, attended the seminar as the chief guest.
He said, "Quitting tobacco use must be made mandatory for those who receive treatment under the DOTS [directly observed treatment, short-course] centre. It is possible to help patients quit tobacco during their treatment period of six months.
"Today, from here onwards, we should make a decision that we will begin a support programme to help tuberculosis patients stop smoking and quit tobacco use," he added.
The Line Director of the National TB Control Programme, Dr Shamiul Islam, said, "The government is committed to making the country tuberculosis free by 2035 and tobacco-free by 2040."
For this commitment to be fulfilled, integrating tobacco control within tuberculosis treatment, incorporating information on tobacco use, and helping patients quit tobacco, are important, he said.
Among others, Professor Dr Shah Monir, former bureaucrat Md Ruhul Kuddus, Dr Golam Mohiuddin Faruque from the Cancer Society, Dr Sohel Reza Chowdhury from the National Heart Foundation, Syedul Mahbubul Alam, technical advisor of The Union, and Dr MS Choudhury Lelin, also attended the seminar.
While conducting the study, ARK Foundation trained healthcare providers of four districts to hone their skills in counselling patients on tobacco cessation.
The trained healthcare workers were successful in providing counselling and supporting patients to quit smoking, proving that for patients to quit tobacco, providing support through a brief counselling session, is effective and feasible on a large scale.