The WHO (World Health Organization) on Tuesday launched ‘Quit Tobacco App’ to help people kick the cigarette butt and give up the use of tobacco in all forms – including smokeless and other newer arrivals of products ahead. “Tobacco is deadly in every form. Innovative approaches such as this app are much needed to support people step aside tobacco, which they may be aware is harmful and risky, but are unable to quit for various reasons,” told Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, W.H.O. South-East Asia Region, launching the app.
The app, the first such by World Health Organization, and the first that targets all forms of tobacco, helps users to identify the triggers, set their targets, manage cravings, and stay focused to quit tobacco. Nowadays, Tobacco is the world’s leading cause of kills and preventable death, nearly 8 million people every year. It claims 1.6 million lives in the WHO South-East Asia Region which is amongst the consumers and largest producers of tobacco products. Tobacco use is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCD) including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic lung diseases and diabetes. Tobacco users are also at highest risk of severe disease and complication in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With a focused directive approach to control tobacco, as part of regional flagship to reduce non-communicable diseases burden, countries have been accelerating the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on MPOWER package and Tobacco Control, a set of high impact and six cost-effective measures to reduce demand and supply of tobacco and tackle the tobacco epidemic. According to the WHO Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Use 2000-2025 (4th edition, 2021) WHO South-East Asia Region declared the fastest decline in tobacco use but continued to have the highest 29% of its population or 432 million tobacco users. The Region has 266Million smokeless tobacco users of the 355 million globally. The growing use of emerging and new products such as ECigarettes/Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems/sheesha/hukkah are additional challenges to tobacco control.
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The Region has expanded tobacco surveillance to monitor tobacco control policies and tobacco use prevalence. Thailand was the first in entire Asia to implement Plain Packaging. Nepal, Timor-Leste, Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka have implemented large-sized graphic health warnings on tobacco packs. Six countries have banned (electronic cigarettes) ENDS. India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka are working towards moving tobacco farmers away from growing tobacco. Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have scaled-up and established tobacco cessation services. The ‘WHO Quit Tobacco App’, launched during WHO’s year-long ‘Commit to quit’ programme, is the latest update on tobacco control initiative by the WHO South-East Asia Region.