Number of smokers under treatment in SUS reduces by more than 60% during the pandemic

Data from the National Tobacco Control Program (PNCT) indicate a reduction of 66% in the number of smokers being treated in the Unified Health System (SUS) during 2020 compared to 2019. Among Brazilian regions, the biggest drop caused by the pandemic was in the Southeast, with 68%. The Northeast region registered 66%, followed by the Midwest (63%), South (62%) and North (59%).

According to psychologist Vera Borges, from the Tobacco Control Division of the National Cancer Institute (Inca), the pandemic directly interfered in the treatment of these patients, who stopped going to hospitals. “With the health units treating almost exclusively cases of Covid-19, some people avoided going to and staying in health institutions”, he pointed out.

The institution’s expectation is that the number of services provided to smokers in the SUS will be expanded and return to the level prior to the pandemic. The report produced by Inca also reveals that, despite the pandemic, around 68 thousand smokers sought care at the beginning of last year across the country.

“Tobacco is a chronic disease and is also a risk factor for other important illnesses that are the main causes of mortality in the population, such as cardiovascular, respiratory and cancer”, highlights Liz Almeida, coordinator of Prevention and Surveillance at Inca .

In Brazil, smoking kills 162,000 people a year. About R$ 125 billion are spent from public coffers annually to cover expenses with diseases caused by cigarettes. This cost is equivalent to 23% of what Brazil spent, in 2020, fighting Covid-19.

The high cost of smoking does not include SUS expenses to treat nicotine dependence, considered one of the most effective medical measures when compared to the treatment of diseases caused by the use of tobacco products.

“The Tax Reform, under debate in the National Congress, represents an opportunity to increase the effect of the increase in prices and taxes on tobacco as an inducer of smoking cessation and prevention of smoking initiation among children and adolescents. It also represents an opportunity to link resources to ensure the full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Brazil, including the expansion of smoking cessation treatment coverage for populations with lower income and education, which concentrate the highest smoking prevalence”, stresses Tânia Cavalcante, executive secretary of the National Commission for the Implementation of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.

Tobacco consumption and exposure to its smoke are risk factors for chronic diseases, which lead to 8 million deaths worldwide annually.

“Quitting smoking is always worthwhile at any time in life, especially during the pandemic of a severe respiratory disease, for which smoking is a factor that can increase the risk of complications and death,” adds the expert.

Campaign and events

In celebration of the National Anti-Smoking Day, celebrated on August 29, Inca will hold a series of debates on the topic on the institution’s YouTube channel.

This Wednesday (25), the campaign “The best choice is not to smoke” will be presented, developed in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). In addition, experts will detail data from the report on Treatment of Tobacco Use in SUS during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

On the 27th, Inca participates in the public hearing promoted by the Finance and Taxation Committee of the Chamber of Deputies with the theme: “Tax Reform: a mechanism to correct distortions between what the State spends as a result of tobacco-related diseases and what collects from taxes levied on tobacco products”. The transmission will be made through the Chamber of Deputies Channel, on YouTube.

On the next 31st, at 9:30 am, Inca and the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) will present the online seminar “Minimum Approach to Smoking Cessation”. And to close the program, on September 2, the institute will disclose the PNCT booklets that were audio described through a partnership with the Federal Center for Technological Education Celso Suckow (Cefet) – “Projeto Tá na Rede” -, and the Fluminense Federal University (UFF) – “My Eyes Project”.