Commit to Quit | Daily News
World No Tobacco Day 2021:

Commit to Quit

The saying goes that ‘quitters never win’, but in the case of tobacco, quitters are the real winners

Today, we mark the World No Tobacco Day. Lots of studies have been done about the benefits of quitting smoking. Decades of research have found several good reasons to quit, including health and financial benefits that can save lives and money. While it’s best to quit as early in life as possible, quitting at any age can lead to better health and a better lifestyle.

Using tobacco leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body. It is the leading cause of preventable death. Secondhand smoke is dangerous and can harm the health of non-smokers who are exposed to exhaled tobacco smoke. Quitting can make you look, feel and be healthier.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products are expensive and those who smoke spend their money on some detrimental product with no use. Therefore quitting can help in saving money.

Not using tobacco products helps keep your family safe, helps you have more energy and helps to maintain a quality life. Quitting also sets a good example for others who might need help quitting. Quitting can improve self-confidence and leads to a better lifestyle.

It is never too late to quit using tobacco. The sooner you quit, the more you can reduce your chances of getting cancer and other diseases.  A few days after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

Two weeks to three months after quitting your blood circulation improves and lung function increases. Within 12 months of quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease, your lungs are clean and the risk of infection is reduced.

Quitting smoking lowers your risk of other cancers over time, including cancers of the lung, stomach, pancreas, liver, cervix, colon and rectum and even acute myeloid leukemia. Quitting also lowers your risk of diabetes, helps your blood vessels work better, and helps your heart and lungs.

Quitting smoking adds as much as 10 years to your life, compared to if you continued to smoke. Quitting while you are younger can reduce your health risks more. However, quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.

Other benefits of quitting are food tasting better, sense of smell returning to normal, breath, hair and clothes smelling better, teeth and fingernails stop yellowing, ordinary activities such as climbing stairs or light housework becoming easier with less shortness of breath, and a reduction in premature wrinkling of skin, gum disease and tooth loss.

The US Surgeon General has said, “Smoking cessation represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.” Quitting is hard, but one can increase his or her chances of success with help.

As of 2018, comprehensive tobacco cessation services are in place for 2.4 billion people in 23 countries – 32 percent of the world’s population. The number of countries adopting comprehensive tobacco cessation measures lags behind the other MPOWER measures, with only 16 high-income countries, six middle-income countries and one low-income country (Senegal) offering comprehensive cessation support.

Globally, almost all high-income countries make cessation services available and 90 percent also offer at least partial cost coverage of these services. The majority of middle-income countries (72 percent) do the same, while only 24 percent of low-income countries offer any cost coverage for services. There are 24 countries that provide no cessation support at all. These numbers show that while great work has begun, there is still much more to be done.

The greatest obstacle to reducing tobacco use is the tobacco industry’s interference which has a long history of systematic, aggressive, sustained and well-resourced opposition to tobacco control measures, including efforts to subvert life-saving tobacco control measures.

The industry does this by deploying a wide variety of tactics to obstruct, delay, weaken or undermine political commitments and tobacco control measures taken by countries at international, regional, national and sub-national levels. Some of these strategies are public and others more covert directed at governments, the public, or the media.

The industry’s interference takes many forms:

* interfering with political and legislative processes;

* fabricating support through front groups;

* influencing the scientific and policy agendas

* making unproven claims and discrediting proven science;

* exaggerating the economic importance of the industry;

* intimidating governments with litigation or the threat of litigation; and

manipulating public opinion to gain the appearance of respectability.

Therefore, identifying and countering tobacco industry tactics is important in reducing the consumption.

According to the WHO-FCTC - Article 5.3, the parties to act to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law should have commitment to countering industry interference which is fundamental to successful implementation of effective tobacco control measures.

There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. The tobacco industry produces and promotes a product that has been proven scientifically to be addictive, to cause disease and death and to give rise to a variety of social ills, including increased poverty.

Therefore, parties to the WHO - FCTC, should protect the formulation and implementation of public health policies for tobacco control from the tobacco industry to the greatest extent possible.

They should ensure that any interaction with the tobacco industry on matters related to tobacco control or public health is accountable and transparent.

Since tobacco products are lethal, the tobacco industry should not be granted incentives to establish or run their businesses. Any preferential treatment of the tobacco industry would be in conflict with tobacco control policy.

Governments, including the authorities dealing with tobacco control should take measures to raise awareness about the addictive and harmful nature of tobacco products and about tobacco industry interference with the parties’ tobacco control policies.

Measures should be taken to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and ensure the transparency of those interactions that occur. Avoid conflicts of interest for government officials and employees.

Tobacco industry’s so-called ‘corporate social responsibility’ activities should be monitored and denormalized to the extent possible. They should not be given preferential treatment.

Blocking tobacco industry interference is critical to successfully addressing the global tobacco epidemic and decreasing the public health consequences of tobacco use.

Smoking harms the immune system and therefore the body’s ability to fight infection. This impairment occurs in two different ways. There is overwhelming evidence that people who smoke are at higher risk of getting viral and bacterial respiratory infections. The diseases caused by smoking occur among smokers and non-smokers exposed to tobacco smoke alike.

Therefore, tobacco users can quickly and greatly improve their health by quitting and there has never been a better time to do so than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the news came out that smokers were more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19 compared to non-smokers, it triggered millions of smokers to want to quit tobacco. But without adequate support, quitting can be incredibly challenging. 

The nicotine found in tobacco is highly addictive and creates dependence. The behavioural and emotional ties to tobacco use – like having a cigarette with your coffee, craving tobacco, feelings of sadness or stress – make it hard to kick the habit. 

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 to quit successfully. This gap in access to cessation services was only further exacerbated in the last year as the health workforce has been mobilized to handle the pandemic.

That’s why the WHO launched a year-long campaign for World No Tobacco Day’s   – ‘Commit to Quit’ theme. The campaign aims to empower 100 million tobacco users to make a quit attempt by creating networks of support and increasing access to services proven to help tobacco users quit successfully.

This will be achieved by scaling-up existing services such as brief advice from health professionals and national toll free quit lines, as well as launching innovative services like Florence, WHO’s first digital health worker, and chatbot support programmes on WhatsApp and Viber. 

To truly help tobacco users quit, they need to be supported with tried and tested policies and interventions to drive down the demand for tobacco. 

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) provides a strong, concerted response to the global tobacco epidemic and its enormous health, social, environmental and economic costs. To help countries implement the WHO FCTC, WHO introduced the MPOWER technical package to support implementation of key strategies, such as raising tobacco taxes, creating smoke-free environments and offering help to quit. 

Despite these challenges brought on by the tobacco industry, the world has seen significant progress in tobacco control.

Since the MPOWER technical package was introduced more than a decade ago, five billion people have now been covered by at least one of these best-practice tobacco control measures, has more than quadrupled since 2007. Over the last two decades, global tobacco use has fallen by 60 million people. But the decrease varies by region and we are now seeing the tobacco industry vigorously target low- and middle-income countries with traditional cigarettes, while pushing its new and emerging products in higher income countries.

WHO urges governments to help tobacco users quit by providing the support, services, policies and tobacco taxes that enable people to quit.

Smoke-free policies have the potential to protect non-smokers, including over 65,000 children and adolescents who die every year from exposure to second-hand smoke.

Tobacco costs economies over US$ 1.4 trillion in health expenditures and lost productivity, which is equivalent to 1.8 percent of annual global GDP. Increasing tobacco taxes helps make these lethal products less affordable and helps cover health-care costs for the diseases they create.  

There has never been a better time to quit tobacco, and commitment to helping tobacco users quit is critical to improving health and saving lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to millions of tobacco users saying they want to quit. Nearly 60 percent of tobacco users around the world want to quit smoking, but only 30 percent of the global population have access to quality tobacco cessation services. Currently, only 23 countries provide comprehensive cessation service to help tobacco users to quit. 

WHO launched a global campaign to celebrate the World No Tobacco Day 2021, which will be conducted under the slogan ‘Commit to Quit’. The goal of the campaign is to help 100 million people quit tobacco use through various initiatives and digital tools. This can help create healthier conditions that promote tobacco cessation through: 

WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has given special recognition awards for tobacco control to the Minister of Health and Family Welfare of India, Dr. Harsh Vardhan and to the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, UK.