Millions adamant on kicking tobacco worldwide lack support — WHO

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AMMAN — The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a new campaign to aid tobacco users, noting that while the pandemic has inspired many worldwide to quit, they lack the support needed to see it through.اضافة اعلان

A new chatbot and even an AI assistant are now ready to aid prospective quitters in their journey, WHO said in a statement.

According to the UN health agency, the finding that smokers were more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19 compared to non-smokers, triggered millions of people to want to quit tobacco. But without adequate support, quitting can be incredibly challenging.

On World No Tobacco Day 2021, the agency reiterated that the nicotine found in tobacco is highly addictive and creates dependence, and the behavioral and emotional ties to tobacco use – like having a cigarette with coffee, craving tobacco, and feelings of sadness or stress – make it hard to kick the habit.

However, with professional support and cessation services, tobacco users double their chances of quitting successfully. Currently, over 70 percent of the 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide lack access to the tools they need, and the gap in access to cessation services was further exacerbated in the last year as the health workforce was mobilized to handle the pandemic.

“Smokers have up to a 50 percent 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,”  , WHO Director-General.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

“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”, he added.

Tedros announced that WHO is taking advantage of digital tools to help tobacco users and has released the Quit Challenge chatbot, and the Artificial Intelligence digital health worker, Florence.

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.

The agency also released a “quitting toolkit” which includes these innovations, but also existing services such as brief advice from health professionals and national toll-free quit-lines.

Globally, roughly 39 percent of men and 9 percent of women use tobacco. The highest tobacco use rates among men are currently found in the Western Pacific region at 49 percent, and among women in Europe at 19 percent.

As part of the “Commit to Quit” initiative, WHO called for the adoption of bold policies that promote tobacco cessation; increasing access to smoking cessation services; raising awareness of the tobacco industry's tactics; and support for consumers trying to stay away from tobacco.

Currently, 29 countries are working with the agency to support tobacco cessation through national awareness campaigns, new digital tools, policy review, training of health workers, opening of specialized clinics, support for nicotine replacement therapies, and courses to quit smoking.

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