World Mental Health Day Underscores Urgent Need for Doctors in India to Help the Country’s Over 250 Million Tobacco Users Quit


Nearly 9 in 10 Doctors in India Mistakenly Believe Nicotine Causes Lung Cancer, Endangering Tobacco Cessation Efforts

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World invites researchers to propose new analysis & educational programs amid widespread misconceptions

  • On average, 88% of doctors in India incorrectly believe nicotine causes lung cancer and 87% believe is causes atherosclerosis.
  • While on average 94% of doctors at least moderately agree that helping patients quit smoking is a priority, lack of training and nicotine knowledge adversely impacts quitting and harm reduction advice.
  • Nearly half (48%) of doctors say they are not appropriately trained to help patients quit smoking.


NEW DELHI, Sept. 27, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Nearly 9 in 10 doctors in India mistakenly believe that nicotine causes lung cancer, directly jeopardizing advancements made in helping smokers quit, a survey funded by a Foundation for a Smoke-Free World grant has found.

Nearly 9 out of 10 physicians in India mistakenly believe nicotine causes lung cancer.

In the lead-up to World Mental Health Day (October 10), for individuals grappling with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, quitting smoking can offer transformative benefits. Cessation of smoking can foster enhanced calmness, positivity, and an improved quality of life, underscoring the intricate link between mental well-being and smoking cessation.

This connection between well-being and smoking cessation becomes even more critical considering the prevailing misperceptions among Indian doctors. These misperceptions have led the majority of doctors to erroneously attribute a range of illnesses to nicotine, including head, neck and gastric cancers (78%), COPD (86%), and birth defects (75%).

Sermo, an independent platform and leader in actionable healthcare professional insights, surveyed more than 15,000 doctors online in 11 countries (China, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States).

At a global level, 8 in 10 doctors on average mistakenly attribute negative health consequences of smoking to nicotine.

In India, an average of 94% of doctors at least moderately agree that helping patients quit smoking is a priority, yet 48% believe they are not appropriately trained to do so. This is especially troubling as India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products leading to nearly 1.35 million annual deaths.

This raises serious concerns about the ability of physicians in India to equip patients who consume risky forms of smoked and smokeless tobacco with the most accurate and effective advice on how to quit.

While just over 85% of physicians in India are at least moderately interested in receiving more training to help patients quit smoking, 48% of those who have not taken any training said they are not aware of training opportunities in India and they need more continuing medical education on smoking cessation during medical school.

The Doctors’ Survey findings for India can be accessed on the Foundation’s website at

“Patients place trust in doctors to give them sound health care and treatment options that can help prevent illness and disease,” said Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, Director of Health and Science Research, Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. “It is therefore imperative that doctors get the proper training to learn the facts about nicotine and tobacco harm reduction options that can help their smoking patients quit. With more than 7 million smokers dying annually from smoking-related diseases worldwide, many lives can be saved if doctors become more knowledgeable about the cessation tools available.”  

With the survey finding that nearly all physicians in India are interested in helping patients quit smoking, it is troubling that only 35% of doctors discuss an approach to smoking reduction and cessation with patients during every visit, with 27% of doctors bringing the topic up every few visits or when they feel it is appropriate to do so. However, only a small minority (1%) avoid the topic all together.

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World invites researchers to submit proposals to further analyse the Doctors’ Survey findings and propose programs that would help improve doctors’ fluency about smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction. Researchers interested in submitting a proposal should contact [email protected].

About the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World is an independent, U.S. nonprofit 501(c)(3) grantmaking organization with the purpose of improving global health by ending smoking in this generation. The Foundation supports its mission through three broad categories of work: Health and Science Research; Agricultural Diversification; and Industry Transformation. Funded by annual gifts from PMI Global Services Inc. (“PMI”), the Foundation is independent from PMI and operates in a manner that ensures its independence from any commercial entity. For more information about the Foundation, please visit

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94% of physicians in India feel that helping patients quit smoking is a priority.

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