The denormalization of indoor smoking
Javier Saimovici, MD, is member of the Global Bridges Steering Committee for Latin America. A clinician and university professor, he is also member of the “Programa de Control del Tabaco”and works at Hospital Italiano in Buenos Aires.
You have been very active and passionate about tobacco control/tobacco dependence treatment. What led to your involvement?
I got involved especially due to the great impact that we, as healthcare providers, can make in people’s lives and in society when we help reduce the consumption of tobacco. There are many diseases that doctors cannot prevent or cure, but tobacco dependence gives many opportunities to act effectively in prevention and treatment. I also got deeply touched when I started to know the many strategies that tobacco industries use to prevent the reduction of tobacco consumption in the world.
What are some of the things you have been able to accomplish, specifically in the tobacco control arena?
In 2000, along with other healthcare professionals, we formed a committed tobacco control team at the Hospital Italiano in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a team, we managed to be one of the first smoke-free hospitals in Argentina; we created a smoking cessation program for individuals and groups that has treated thousands of patients; and we participate in almost all local and international conferences on tobacco control. Since we have been offering tobacco control training courses for healthcare professionals for many years, we have participated in all major activities of tobacco control in our country and we also generously share our tobacco control expertise with scientific societies. I have participated in various medical research projects and publications related to tobacco control. For several years, I’ve been teaching classes for medical students about tobacco control and postgraduate classes on smoking cessation treatments for physicians. I have recently published, together with my colleagues, a book on smoking cessation treatments. I’m part of Global Bridges, whose mission is to train healthcare professionals on smoking cessation treatments around the world and to help those who suffer from tobacco addiction to get access to smoking cessation treatments.
Describe some of the biggest challenges you face in your work?
One of the biggest challenges I face at work is the natural resistance of smokers to quit, so it is necessary to continuously train and update our skills to motivate smokers to quit. Another challenge is the lack of accessibility for many people to smoking cessation treatments because many healthcare systems in our region do not provide coverage for such treatments. I think they have their priorities in a mistaken order.
Please tell us about some of the things you are working on now.
Besides teaching at the medical school and in post-graduate courses and assisting patients in smoking cessation clinics, I’m currently conducting research on the impact of training healthcare professionals in smoking cessation.
What else would you like to accomplish in your work with tobacco control?
I would like to continue making my small contribution to society in order to decrease the number of people who smoke down to five percent or less of the population, and thus reduce the enormous amount of death and suffering provoked by tobacco consumption over the upcoming years.
Is there anything I have not asked about that you would like to add – something that you want people to know?
I would like to remind everyone that environmental tobacco smoke is harmful to all people, whether or not they are a smoker. We should continue down the existing path of denormalization in order to make indoor smoking completely socially unacceptable. This will benefit all people, whether they smoke or not.