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Smokers at higher risk of developing COVID-19-related disease -WHO

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Amarachi Okeh

The World Health Organisation warns that smokers face a higher risk of developing severe disease or death from COVID-19.

WHO made this known in a statement on the “Commit to Quit” tobacco campaign on Friday [today].

The campaign is a partnership between WHO, Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and AI company Soul Machines to reach billions with free digital quitting tobacco aids.

“The project is aimed at supporting millions of tobacco users who are actively taking steps to save their lives, but still need help to succeed,” the statement said.

“Smokers have up to 50 percent higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19, so quitting is the best thing smokers can do to lower their risks from this coronavirus, as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart diseases and respiratory illnesses,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said.

“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.”

So far into the yearlong campaign, WHO said it has made resources from its Quitting Toolkit freely available to more than a billion tobacco users.

Nigeria is also among the 29 countries engaged in this campaign to create awareness by running national awareness campaigns, releasing new digital tools, revising policies, engaging youth, training health workers, opening new cessation clinics, supporting nicotine replacement therapies through WHO partners, establishing national toll-free quit lines, making quitting courses available, and more, the statement said.

Speaking also, Dr. Rüdiger Krech, Director Health Promotion of WHO added that, “to help tobacco users to commit to be quitters and winners, we are using digital aids to release the WHO Quit Challenge chatbot and Artificial Intelligence digital health worker Florence, and making advocacy material available in 30 languages.”

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