WHO Releases First-Ever Clinical Treatment Guide for Quitting Tobacco

First-ever clinical treatment guide to quit tobacco released by WHO
First-ever clinical treatment guide for quitting tobacco released by WHO. Credit: Fried Dough / Flickr / Public Domain

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new guidelines to help people quit smoking and tobacco in general. These guidelines propose a combination of various methods such as counseling, digital programs, and medical treatments.

The guidelines will hopefully assist over 750 million adult tobacco users worldwide who want to quit. They can assist with habits such as cigarette and cigar smoking, waterpipe use, tobacco chewing, and the use of heated tobacco products (HTPs).

According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, these guidelines are “a crucial milestone in our global battle against these dangerous products.”

He added that they “[empower] countries with the essential tools to effectively support individuals in quitting tobacco and alleviate the global burden of tobacco-related diseases.”

More than 750 million people worldwide wish to quit tobacco

More than 60 percent of the world’s 1.25 billion tobacco users, which is over 750 million people, want to quit smoking. However, 70 percent of them don’t have access to effective methods to quit. This lack of support is the result of health systems’ challenges and limited resources.

“The immense struggle that people face when trying to quit smoking cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Rüdiger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO. “We need to deeply appreciate the strength it takes and the suffering endured by individuals and their loved ones to overcome this addiction.”

“These guidelines are designed to help communities and governments provide the best possible support and assistance for those on this challenging journey,” Krech added.

A combination of medical care and counseling greatly increases the chances of quitting tobacco. These treatments should be provided for free or at a low cost to make them more accessible, especially in low- and middle-income countries, as reported by WHO.

Other therapies for quitting tobacco suggested by the WHO

The WHO recommends several effective treatments for quitting tobacco, including varenicline, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), bupropion, and cytisine.

In 2023, the WHO began a process for the approval of medicines that help with issues resulting from tobacco use. This aims to make treatments more widely and globally available.

In April 2024, Kenvue’s nicotine gum and patch became the first NRT products to receive WHO approval. The WHO suggests brief counseling by health workers, lasting 30 seconds to 3 minutes, should be regularly offered in healthcare settings.

For those interested, more intensive support, such as individual, group, or phone counseling, is recommended. Digital tools like text messaging, smartphone apps, and online programs can also be helpful.

The WHO further urges healthcare providers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to adopt the guidelines. Doing so can aid people in quitting tobacco and improve the health of millions worldwide.

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