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WHO releases new guidelines to help millions quit tobacco
A woman walks past a no smoking sign outside a shopping centre in Bangkok, Thailand.Photo Courtesy: WHO/Conor Ashleigh

WHO releases new guidelines to help millions quit tobacco

| @indiablooms | 03 Jul 2024, 02:50 pm

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday released the first-ever guidelines for those seeking to quit tobacco use, recommending a range of initiatives, treatments and digital interventions.

These recommendations are expected to benefit over 750 million adults who want to quit all forms of tobacco including cigarettes, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco products, cigars, roll-your-own tobacco and heated tobacco products.

“This guideline marks a crucial milestone in our global battle against these dangerous products,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“It empowers countries with the essential tools to effectively support individuals in quitting tobacco and alleviate the global burden of tobacco-related diseases,” he added.

Challenges quitting

While 750 million tobacco users – 60 per cent of the world's 1.25 billion tobacco users – want to quit smoking, a vast majority lack access to services to help them do so due to resource limitations and other health system challenges.

Rüdiger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO emphasized that the struggles people face when trying to quit smoking should not be overstated.

“We need to deeply appreciate the strength it takes, and the suffering endured by individuals and their loved ones to overcome this addiction,” Dr. Krech said. “These guidelines are designed to help communities and governments provide the best possible support and assistance for those on this challenging journey.”

Treatment options

In its guidelines, WHO laid out a combination of pharmacotherapy and behavioural interventions that can significantly increase quitting success rates.

It encouraged countries to offer these treatments at no or reduced cost to improve accessibility, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Treatments include medications such as varenicline, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), bupropion and cytisine.

For behavioural interventions, WHO suggested brief counselling sessions with health worker – lasting between 30 seconds to three minutes – in a health-care setting.

More intensive care options include individual, group or phone counselling sessions.

“Additionally, digital interventions such as text messaging, smartphone apps, and internet programmes can be used as adjuncts or self-management tools,” WHO added.

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