Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Religious faith can certainly help to stop tobacco habits: An experience from a pilot study.

Article: Samer Jabbour & Fouad Mohammad Fouad 2004;82:923-7

Dear Colleagues, I refer a useful article entitled “Religion-based tobacco control interventions: how should WHO proceed?” published in the Policy and Practice section (1).

There are debates and dilemma on whether religion and religious faith would be used as a method for prevention and control of personal habit(s) and life-style-induced diseases and disease conditions (2). But in reality religion/religious practices do have very positive effect in human system and mind, especially among the group who have strong faith on God and sincere with their religious practice (not religious fanatic). Of course, many politicians/community-leaders are tackling religion/religious faith for their political games, but the personal believes must not be exploited while using it for helping a person-in-need to reduce the load of his/her health/psychological turmoil. Specially learned organizations must be very careful with their policy and practice while using the cultural/spiritual instinct of religion in health and its application to stop tobacco as well.

No doubt there is an outstanding role of religion to reduce the frequency of tobacco aiming to stop tobacco habit, which we also experienced. We have observed and recorded in a pilot study and action-based tobacco control programme in countries of South and Southeast Asian region too.

With the programme, a hospital based oral cancer education and screening unit located in a South Western costal city of India, Mangalore has an inbound and outreach programme covering 500, 000 populations consisting different religious group of people, who really got benefit while they promised in the name of God (irrespective of religious faith) to stop tobacco habits (3).

The ongoing study is an action based structured programme for understanding and measurement of an individual (who is coming as dental patient). We recorded their demographic information; estimated their knowledge level on ill effect of tobacco by pre-tested questionnaire followed by screening, oral health examination and counselling with follow-up assessment. If a patient has tobacco habit (either chewing or smoking/ or both) we specifically record his/her personal faith of religion and level of practices on religion. When we estimate that the person is really dedicated to his/her religious practice, we help him/her by getting a promise from him/her in the name his/her God that s/he will stop smoking /chewing tobacco. In certain cases we take the help of priest.

We have follow-up assessment with further structured re-evaluation with the same parameters to elucidate a difference, and out of 5, 0467 patients we found that 80% of tobacco users who are strongly pious had reduced the frequency and ultimately stopped the habits (4).

We had similar outreach programme through prayer centres adjacent to our 12 satellite rural health centres. We had an experience through a church – the priest was requested to convey the message to the prayer-takers, who were alcoholics, tobacco users to convince 78% of 357 populations to stop alcohol drinking, and which was monitored for further assessment for next I year with six months interval (5).

It needs a policy-based approach and even WHO can come forward to endorse of such useful device in FCTC, WHO framework convention for tobacco control (6).

Prof Chitta Ranjan Choudhury.


  • Jabbour S, Fouad MF. Religion-based tobacco control preventions: how should WHO proceed? Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2004;82:923-7.
  • World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Health Education through Religion series: the right path to health, 2004. http://www.emro.who.int/publications/HealthEdReligion
  • Oral Cancer Education and Screening Unit , Centre for Oral Disease Prevention & Control, C/Department of Oral Biology, A B Shetty Memorial Institute of dental Sciences, Deralakatte, Mangalore 574 160, India
  • C R Choudhury et al. Report in 56th IDA (Indian Dental Association) Conference Bhubanneswar, Orrisa , 18- 23 January, 2002 : Oral Cancer Screening and Education programme: a model for a developing country.
  • Outreach programme: Centre for Oral Disease Prevention & Control, C/Dept Oral Biology, ABSMIDS, Deralakatte, and Mangalore, India.
  • WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control : http://www.fctc.org/

Coordinator, International Programme for Tropical Oral Health, IHCS, Bournemouth University & Poole Hospital NHS Dept of MF Surgery, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset, BH15 2JB, England (email: cr_choudhury@yahoo.co.uk) and - Research Director, Centre for Oral Disease Prevention & Control, Department of Oral Biology, ABSMIDS, Deralakatte, Mangalore, India.