Case study

Solving the dual burden of tuberculosis and tobacco smoking in South Asia

Our researchers have developed a practical solution for controlling tuberculosis in three South Asian countries by incorporating tobacco smoking cessation interventions into tuberculosis control programmes.

Man smoking in Pakistan

The issue

Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan face a major challenge with tobacco smoking, as well as being highly affected by tuberculosis (TB). 

In addition to causing cancers and heart diseases, smoking is linked with TB; people who smoke are more likely to develop TB.

Compared to non-smoking TB patients, smokers are less likely to recover and more likely to die during TB treatment. People who smoke while on TB treatment are less likely to comply with their medication and more likely to suffer a TB relapse compared to non-smokers. Smoking also enhances the risk of TB transmission to others.

Overall, smoking is responsible for almost over 20 per cent of TB-related deaths.

The research

Our research aims to prevent TB deaths that are attributed to smoking. We have developed, evaluated and implemented smoking cessation interventions as part of routine TB care.

We first studied the beliefs and attitudes of TB patients towards smoking. Subsequently, we developed a bespoke behavioural support intervention designed to help them quit.

This intervention was compared to usual care in a large trial conducted in Pakistan. We demonstrated that patients receiving behavioural support were nine times more likely to abstain from smoking than those receiving only usual care.

We also found that regular recording, reporting, supervision and clear leadership are needed if TB health workers are to take responsibility for smoking cessation. This helped to normalise smoking cessation within TB control programmes.

The outcome

In Pakistan, tobacco cessation has been included in the national TB strategic plan and clinical guidelines.

Nepal's national TB programme has modified its surveillance systems to include recording and reporting of smoking status. The programme has also adopted the behavioural support intervention within its policies.

In Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan, tobacco cessation intervention has been rolled out in several districts where it has already been offered to thousands of patients.

Based on our research, the World Health Organization’s 'Be Healthy Be Mobile' team has also developed an mHealth package which sends mobile text messages on smoking cessation to TB patients.

Featured researcher

Kamran Siddiqi

Professor Siddiqi has carried out research in the UK, Latin America and South Asia in the area of lung health. He uses quantitative research methods to evaluate public health interventions and is particularly interested in research to help control tobacco use in South Asia.

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Featured researcher

Omara Dogar

Dr Dogar's work focuses on evaluating context-specific low-cost smoking cessation strategies in low and middle-income countries to improve the health and longevity of people suffering from tobacco-related diseases.

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Featured researcher

Helen Elsey

Dr Elsey's current work includes testing novel survey methods to improve the representation of the urban poor and understandings of urban poverty. She also conducts research into strengthening the role of city governments to address health inequities and develops interventions to improve health and reduce injuries in urban slums.

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