WHO: quit tobacco to reduce risk of severe COVID-19

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that smokers face a significantly increased risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19.

The claim was made as it announced the latest stage of its ‘Commit to Quit’ tobacco campaign, partnering with Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and AI company Soul Machines to reach a global audience through free digital quitting tobacco aids.

The Quit Challenge gives daily notifications of tips and encouragement for up to 6 months to help people remain tobacco free.

“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, (above) WHO director-general.

“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.”

The campaign is currently working directly with 29 focus countries.

Each country has agreed with the 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, and making quitting courses available.

According to the WHO, 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.