Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was launching an initiative to help 1.3 billion global tobacco-users quit the habit during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco will help people freely access the resources they need to quit tobacco, like nicotine replacement therapy and access to a digital health worker for advice, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing on Friday.
According to the UN health body, smoking kills 8 million people a year, and evidence reveals that smokers are more vulnerable than non-smokers to developing a severe case of COVID-19, reports Xinhua news agency.
“But if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive,” said Tedros.
The initiative is led by WHO, together with the UN Interagency Task Force on Non-communicable Diseases (NCD).
The initiative brings together tech industry, pharmaceutical, and NGO partners like PATH and the Coalition for Access to NCD Medicines and Products.
As the first manufacturing partner of the initiative, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health said Friday that it has donated nearly 40,000 nicotine patches.
Tedros said the WHO is in the final stages of adding more partners and encourages pharmaceutical and tech companies to join the initiative.
WHO will first launch the initiative in Jordan and then roll it out globally over the coming months, he added.