A new Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco aims to help the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users quit. Stopping smoking is more important than ever as evidence reveals that smokers are more likely than non-smokers to have severe outcomes from COVID-19.
The project gives people free access to nicotine replacement therapy and to Florence, a digital health worker, based on artificial intelligence that dispels myths around COVID-19 and tobacco and helps people develop a personalized plan to quit tobacco.
It is being led by the World Health Organization (WHO), together with the UN Interagency Task Force on Non-Communicable Diseases, PATH, and the Coalition for Access to NCD Medicines and Products, with support from the private sector.
The Secretariat of the WHO FCTC, salutes this initiative. The Head of the Convention Secretariat commented, “This will contribute to Parties’ implementation of Article 14 of the Convention, regarding measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation. And, as previously said: there has never been a more appropriate time to support people in their efforts to quit tobacco use.”
Dr. Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion said that “We welcome the support of pharmaceutical and tech companies to improve people’s health and save lives during COVID-19. The partnership highlights what we can achieve when we work together both to end the pandemic and, moving forward, to build back better.”
WHO received its first-ever donation of nicotine replacement therapies for the project from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health. The manufacturer has donated 37,800 nicotine patches to help 5,400 people in Jordan quit smoking. These efforts will help WHO respond to the ongoing pandemic and improve health outcomes.
Florence was created with technology developed by San Francisco and New Zealand based Digital People company Soul Machines, with support from Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.
Jordan, which has some of the highest tobacco use rates in the world, will be the first pilot country with additional companies and countries to join in the discussion. HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, President for the International Union of Cancer Control said, “I am pleased that Jordan is part of this initiative, which will help advocate for tobacco control and support civil society organizations in their continued efforts for a healthier smoke-free future for Jordan.”
Just last week the Government of Jordan adopted a ban on smoking and vaping indoors in public places. The link between smoking and COVID-19 makes it essential for governments to pass comprehensive tobacco control laws that will protect the health of their people during this pandemic and beyond.
Although around 60% of tobacco users worldwide say they want to quit, only 30% of them have access to the tools that can help them do so The Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco is designed to deliver tobacco cessation services that will help people overcome both physical and mental addictions to tobacco.