Introduction: Smokeless tobacco (SLT) use is extremely common in South Asia. This is because of easy availability and lack of potent control measures. Its link with oral cancers is well established. One of the ways of decreasing its use is by educating the public about its adverse effects. The cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad are strategically important with migrants of numerous ethnicities from all over Pakistan, providing a mixture of socio-cultural traditions, including increasing use of SLT.
Objective: To assess the knowledge, practice and attitude regarding various health outcomes of SLT use amongst users visiting tertiary care hospitals of Rawalpindi.
Patients and Methods: Cross-sectional survey conducted at the outpatient departments of Holy Family Hospital, Benazir Bhutto Hospital and District Head Quarter Hospital Rawalpindi from October 2014 to January 2015. An interviewer administered questionnaire was used to interview 479 attendants of patients. Users of SLT were identified and knowledge, attitude and practices were assessed. The data was analyzed with SPSS 17 and results reported in a descriptive format.
Results: Ninety (18.8%) users were identified. Seventy-eight percent users consumed SLT multiple times a day. Seventy-eight percent users considered peer pressures as a cause for starting use while 56.7% users had a family member using it. Niswar was used by 82% of the users and the Punjabis (52%) and Pathans (20%) were the ethnic factions using it the most. Almost 19% users believed SLT was beneficial for health and only 5.6% appreciated its carcinogenic nature.
Conclusion: SLT use is common amongst younger, less educated individuals being influenced by regional preference and persuasive socio-cultural factors. Erroneous perceptions regarding its carcinogenicity were identified. Health awareness campaigns and oral cancer screening will be beneficial in this region.