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WHO supports people quitting tobacco to reduce risk of COVID-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched the campaign to support millions of tobacco users who are actively taking steps to save their lives, but still need help to succeed.

tobacco smoking
According to scientists, tobacco smoking is dangerous to health

WHO, in a statement on Friday, May 28, 2021, stated that the campaign was currently working directly with 29 focus countries and they agreed on selected activities.

“Each country agreed with WHO on selected activities, including running national awareness campaigns, releasing new digital tools, revising policies, engaging youth, training health workers and opening new cessation clinics.

“Also, supporting nicotine replacement therapies through WHO partners, establishing national toll-free quit lines, making quitting courses available, and more,” said the statement.

It quoted Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, as saying, “Smokers have up to a 50 per cent higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19.

“So, quitting is best thing smokers can do to lower their risk from this coronavirus, as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses.

“We urge all countries to play their part by joining the WHO campaign and creating tobacco-free environments that give people the information, support and tools they need to quit, and quit for good.”

The statement quoted Rüdiger Krech, WHO’s Director, Health Promotion, as saying, “To help tobacco users to commit to be quitters and winners, we are using digital aids.

“We are using digital aids to release the WHO Quit Challenge chatbot and Artificial Intelligence digital health worker Florence, and making advocacy material available in 30 languages.

“The Quit Challenge gives daily notifications of tips and encouragement for up to six months to help people remain tobacco free. It is available for free on WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.”

Globally, the statement noted that roughly 39 per cent of men and nine per cent of women use tobacco.

“The highest smoking rates are currently found in Europe at 26 per cent, with projections only showing a two per cent decrease by 2025 if urgent government action is not taken,” continued the statement.

Meanwhile, Ghebreyesus had given WHO Director-General’s Tobacco Control Awards to India Minister of Health and Family Welfare and a Tobacco control research group in UK.

Ghebreyesus gave special recognition awards for tobacco control to the Minister of Health and Family Welfare of India, Dr Harsh Vardhan and to the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, UK.

Vardhan was instrumental in the 2019 national legislation that banned E-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) in India.

The Tobacco Control Research Group in the UK worked relentlessly to expose tobacco industry attempts and tactics to weaken, block or delay tobacco control, thereby helping secure policy change nationally and globally.

By Cecilia Ologunagba

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