World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a year-long global campaign against tobacco consumption, targeting 100 million people across 22 countries of the world including Nigeria.
WHO justified its campaign against tobacco with more than 100 reasons to quit tobacco heralding the start of the campaign for World No Tobacco Day 2021 with the theme “Commit to Quit.”
A statement released by WHO on Tuesday, indicated that its preliminary findings confirmed that COVID-19 pandemic has increased the desire of smokers to quit the habit.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in the statement said, “It has also led to millions of tobacco users saying they want to quit, thus the campaign which will support at least 100 million people as they try to give up tobacco through communities of quitters.
“The campaign will help create healthier environment 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 where the majority of the world’s tobacco users live.
“WHO welcomes new contributions from partners, including private sector companies that have offered support, including Allen Carr’s Easyway, Amazon Web Services, Cipla, Facebook and WhatsApp, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Praekelt, and Soul Machines.”
He admitted that quitting tobacco is challenging, especially with the added social and economic stresses that have come as a result of the pandemic.
“Globally, around 780 million people have indicated interest to quit tobacco, but only 30 per cent of them have access to the tools that can help them do so. Together with partners, WHO will provide people with the tools and resources they need to make a successful quit attempt.
“Smoking kills eight million people a year, but if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.
He said that WHO released a scientific brief earlier this year which showed that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19, insisting that tobacco is also a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes. “Moreover, people living with these conditions are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19.”
He, however, disclosed that both global and regional cessation tools would be rolled out as part of the campaign, while other digital contents would will be available in English and will soon be released to support people in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish.
Meanwhile, WHO Director of Health Promotion, Dr. Ruediger Krech, said, “millions of people worldwide want to quit tobacco. So, 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.”
WHO called 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.