“Commit to Quit”

The World Health Organisation (WHO), earlier this week, launched a year-long global campaign for World No Tobacco Day 2021 with the tagline “Commit to Quit.” The new Quit Challenge on WhatsApp and publication, “More than 100 reasons to quit tobacco,” was released to mark the start of the campaign. It is seen as another innovative step in getting more persons to quit tobacco use, and it is hoped that countries, including Guyana, will join the campaign fully as part of a broader objective of ensuring healthier populations.
According to the WHO, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to millions of tobacco users saying they want to quit. The campaign will support at least 100 million people as they try to give up tobacco through communities of quitters.
The WHO says the “Commit to Quit” campaign would help to create healthier environments that are conducive to quitting tobacco by advocating for strong tobacco cessation policies; increasing access to cessation services; raising awareness of tobacco industry tactics; and empowering tobacco users to make successful quit attempts through “quit & win” initiatives.
WHO, together with partners, will create and build up digital communities wherein people can find the social support they need to quit. The focus will be on high burden countries* where the majority of the world’s tobacco users live. According to WHO, both global and regional cessation tools will be rolled out as part of the campaign.
Quitting tobacco is challenging, especially with the added social and economic stresses that have come as a result of the pandemic. The WHO says that, worldwide, around 780 million people say they want to quit, but only 30% of them have access to the tools that can help them do so.
WHO released a scientific brief earlier this year showing that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and being dead from COVID-19. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes. Moreover, people living with these conditions are more vulnerable to contracting severe COVID-19. To create environments conducive to quitting tobacco, WHO has worked with partners and countries around the globe to implement tobacco control measures that effectively reduce the demand for tobacco.
We join with WHO and other partners in calling on all governments to ensure their citizens have access to brief advice, toll-free quit lines, mobile and digital cessation services, nicotine replacement therapies, and other tools that are proven to help people quit. “Strong cessation services improve health, save lives, and save money,” according to WHO.
Guyana’s tobacco control law, enacted in 2017, follows several of the articles of the WHO Convention, and mandates the adoption and implementation of a series of tobacco control policies that make it one of the most complete tobacco control laws. These include: 100% smoke free environments in all indoor public spaces, indoor work spaces, public transportation and specified outdoor spaces to protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke; a ban on all forms of advertising and promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products; health warnings featured on 60% of tobacco products’ packaging, including images. It also includes a ban on the sale of tobacco products to and by minors; prohibition on vending machine sales; and a ban on the manufacture and sale of toys and candies, and any other goods in the form of tobacco products.
However, there is still much work to be done to win the battle against tobacco, as approximately 78% of all deaths here are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs); some of which we all know are strongly related to tobacco use.
We had pointed out several times before that having the necessary legislation in place is a good starting point, but there are many other challenges which health authorities here must address if Guyana is to really reduce the number of persons dying or becoming ill due to tobacco use or exposure. These challenges relate to monitoring, and compliance and enforcement of the legislation to ensure that the population is protected from the dangers of tobacco use.
Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO, has reminded that millions of people worldwide want to quit tobacco, and therefore health partners and governments must seize the opportunity and invest in services to help them be successful.