Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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Covid-19 was clearly an eye-opener to the health challenges faced by the nation, but one cannot dispute the exigent need to bring a closer check on all types of addiction, be it cigarettes, or the disruptive trend of technology-infusion in our lives, there is a need to re-look at consumer choice.

Smoking is dangerous to the health of both young people and older people who have been smoking longer. The chemicals from cigarette smoke damage the human body regardless of age. Smoking can cause serious and potentially deadly health issues.

As a part of the series focussing on harm reduction, The Economic Times Consumer Freedom Conclave gathered key experts to divulge their views and perspectives on conversations for consumer freedom. In a recent interaction, Jaspreet Bindra, Founder – Tech Whisperer (UK) Author – The Tech Whisperer and Dr. Rohan Savio Sequeira, Hon. Consultant Physician to the Governor of Maharashtra, Senior Consultant Physician at Jaslok Hospital, St Elizabeth Hospital, S.L. Raheja Hospital, and Holy Family Hospital looked at aspects bridging the gap between buyers and sellers and offering safer alternatives compared to addictive products and services as a choice in an innovation-driven economy.

Using technology to communicate better with consumers

Jaspreet Bindra, a leading expert on digital transformation, blockchain, the future of work and AI expressed his views on the impact of social media and its role. “Organizations and individuals have always had technologies to help communicate with each other better. In fact, as they say, man is a social animal and communication between each other has been of paramount importance for all of us. It does not necessarily separate us from the other species, but we tend to do it far more than any of the others. Internet comes into the fray here, as it is a popular choice for communication.

According to me, COVID-19 turbo-charged and accelerated the rate of communication, it created a COVID paradox, where the world slowed down, yet the communications were hyper-accelerated. All communication was technology-based. Yet technology-based communications cannot supplant face-to-face human interactions going forward. As we move into a hybrid set-up, communications will become far more immersive and personal, with the advent of the metaverse.”

While technology emerges to resolve critical communication issues, there are others where technology can play a greater role, particularly, in the battle to reduce the harm caused by tobacco addiction.

Challenges faced to reduce tobacco addiction

Dr. Rohan Savio Sequeira observes that harm reduction has always been the cornerstone of every kind of addictive behaviour whether it is cigarette smoking or whether it’s liquid in addiction or for that matter of fact any form of addiction harm reduction has always been the key objective. “People have always had a tendency to continue whatever they are doing because it’s very difficult to break a habit. With regards to nicotine, due to its addictive nature and its psychosomatic features that are associated with smoking tobacco or consuming nicotine in any form, this forms a very strong chemical-based reaction in people’s brains which give them a very tough time in giving up something which is giving satisfaction. At a chemical and a molecular level in the brain, it’s almost like breaking software embedded into a structure. In that sense, policies should be in sync with these chemical physiological and psychological changes and produce a policy which allows an individual to adapt to that policy, and gradually taper it off to see addiction.

According to me, policies have not factored in the chemical and physiological changes that go through a person. Hence, it would be very important for any policy decision making commentary or association to understand this and have a proper discussion to bring those things on board.”

The future of consumer choice

Jaspreet Bindra clearly emphasises that networks in the near future there will be an evolution in the amounts of data shared, given the increased interest shown by the government.

Although social media has a significant influence on how consumers make decisions. That has helped individuals learn about healthier alternatives like e-cigarettes. On e-cigarettes, Dr. Rohan Sequeria gave his opinions. “An e-primary cigarette’s characteristics are that it is a liquid and that it is a stimulant like coffee. What is crucial to understand, however, is that clinical research and harm reduction studies have shown it to be a 90 to 95 percent safer alternative for an individual.” Our healthcare expert emphasised the importance of regulation.

Harm reduction based on a prescription may be enabled with the pharmacy infrastructure, as is the case in other nations.

In the future, addiction appears treatable but coexists with effective digital health initiatives that will aid in raising awareness of harm reduction techniques.

The solution to addiction may lie in raising awareness and educating people using the latest technological advancements for future generations.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members