The World Health Organization campaign against smoking targeting 29 high burden countries including Kenya is bearing fruits less than five months since its launch.
The tobacco year long campaign dubbed ‘Commit to Quit’ was launched last December to support millions of tobacco users kick the habit in the wake of the pandemic.
This follows studies that tobacco users are at a higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19.
The world health body, has tapped into diverse digital resources to bolster the quit challenge which it says is a success.
The ‘Quitting Toolkit’ is freely available to more than a billion tobacco users from 29 high burden countries including Kenya.
WHO has partnered with Viber, WhatsApp, FB Messenger, WeChat and AI Company Soul Machines among others to reach billions with free digital quitting tobacco aids.
“To help tobacco users to commit to be quitters and winners, 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,” added Dr Rüdiger Krech, Director Health Promotion, WHO.
The Quit Challenge gives daily notifications of tips and encouragement for up to six months to help people remain tobacco free.
Each country agreed with WHO on selected activities, including, running national awareness campaigns, releasing new digital tools, revising policies, engaging youth, training health workers, opening new cessation clinics, supporting nicotine replacement therapies through WHO partners, establishing national toll-free quit lines, making quitting courses available, and more.
Commenting on the campaign, World Health Organisation Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that smokers face a 40 – 50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19.
“Smokers have up to a 50% 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,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Adding that: “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.”
Globally, roughly 39% of men and 9% of women use tobacco.
The highest smoking rates are currently found in Europe at 26%, with projections only showing a 2% decrease by 2025 if urgent government action is not taken.