How To Quit Tobacco Smoking: WHO Issues First-Ever Treatment Guidelines

New York: More than 8 million people die from tobacco use every year as it causes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, more than 20 different types or subtypes of cancer and many other debilitating health conditions.

That is common knowledge.

What is new is the World Health Organisation (WHO) issuing guidelines for the first time to help quit smoking.

As per the guidelines, a combination of behavioural support from healthcare providers, digital tools and medications can ‘treat’ the ill-habit and dissuade tobacco smokers to give up.

There are for over 750 million tobacco users worldwide, who consume cigarettes, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, roll-your-own tobacco and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

According to WHO, more than 60% of the world’s tobacco users want to quit, but 70% lack access to effective cessation services due to health system challenges and limited resources.

“The struggle to quit smoking is immense. We need to understand the strength it takes and the suffering endured by individuals and their families to overcome this addiction,” said Dr Rudiger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO.

WHO recommends medications like varenicline, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), bupropion, and cytisine as effective treatments for quitting tobacco.

After the global health agency started a process to improve global access to recommended tobacco cessation medications last year, Kenvue’s nicotine gum and patch became the first WHO-approved NRT products in April 2024.

WHO has also recommended brief counselling from health workers, lasting 30 seconds to 3 minutes, and more intensive behavioural support such as individual, group, or phone counselling.

Digital tools like text messaging, smartphone apps and internet programmes can also be used to help people quit smoking.

In this important drive, WHO has urged healthcare providers, policymakers and stakeholders to adopt these guidelines to promote tobacco cessation and improve health worldwide.

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