Smokers face 50% higher risk of developing COVID-19, other diseases: WHO

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Smokers have up to a 50 percent higher risk of developing severe diseases and death from COVID-19, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedos Ghebreyesus said.

The Secretary-General made the remarks on Monday in a message to commemorate World No Tobacco Day, globally marked on May 31 annually, in a bid to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

According to him, quitting is the best thing smokers can do to lower their risk from coronavirus as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses.

“We urge all countries to play their part by joining the WHO campaign and creating tobacco-free environments that give people the information, support and tools they need to quit, and quit for good.”

The director-general announced that WHO was taking advantage of digital tools to help tobacco users and had released the Quit Challenge chatbot and the Artificial Intelligence digital health worker Florence.

“The Quit Challenge gives daily notifications of tips and encouragement for up to six months to help people remain tobacco-free. It is available for free on WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger and WeChat,” he said.

According to the UN health agency, the report that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19 compared to non-smokers triggered millions of people to want to quit tobacco.

Currently, over 70 percent of the 1.3 billion tobacco users worldwide lack access to the tools they need, and the gap in access to cessation services was further exacerbated in the last year as the health workforce was mobilized to handle the pandemic.

 

(With input from agencies)

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