780 million people worldwide say they want to quit tobacco: WHO

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday launched a year-long global campaign to World No Tobacco Day 2021 - “Commit to Quit".


(Representational Image: Unsplash)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, around 780 million people worldwide say they want to quit, but only 30 per cent of them have access to the tools that can help them do so, the World Health Organisation said.

The World Health Organisation stated in a release that COVID-19 pandemic has led to millions of tobacco users saying they want to quit. However, pointing out that quitting tobacco is challenging, especially with the added social and economic stresses brought on by the pandemic, WHO said that together with partners, it will provide people with the tools and resources they need to make a successful quit attempt.

“Smoking kills 8 million people a year, but if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive,” WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was quoted as saying in a statement issued on the launch of the year-long global campaign to World No Tobacco Day 2021 - “Commit to Quit" on Tuesday.

The new WHO Quit Challenge on WhatsApp and publication “More than 100 reasons to quit tobacco" are being released to mark the start of the Commit To Quit campaign. The campaign will support at least 100 million people as they try to give up tobacco through communities of quitters, the release stated.

WHO said that “Commit to Quit”  will help create healthier environments that are conducive to quitting tobacco by advocating for strong tobacco cessation policies; increasing access to cessation services; raising awareness of tobacco industry tactics, and empowering tobacco users to make successful quit attempts through “quit & win” initiatives.

WHO, together with partners, will create and build-up digital communities where people can find the social support they need to quit. The focus will be on high burden countries, including India, where the majority of the world’s tobacco users live, the release added.

WHO released a scientific brief earlier this year showing that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes. Moreover, people living with these conditions are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

Both global and regional cessation tools will be rolled out as part of the campaign. WHO’s 24/7 digital health worker to help people quit tobacco is available in English and will soon be released to support people in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish, the release stated.

“Millions of people worldwide want to quit tobacco – we must seize this opportunity and invest in services to help them be successful, while we urge everyone to divest from the tobacco industry and their interests,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion.

To create environments conducive to quitting tobacco, WHO said it has worked with partners and countries around the globe to implement tobacco control measures that effectively reduce the demand for tobacco.

WHO calls on all governments to ensure their citizens have access to brief advice, toll-free quit lines, mobile and digital cessation services, nicotine replacement therapies and other tools that are proven to help people quit. Strong cessation services improve health, save lives and save money.

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First Published:Dec. 8, 2020, 7:14 p.m.

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