Want to quit smoking? WHO recommends these treatments for tobacco users – National

The World Health Organization has published its “first-ever” clinical practice guideline for people who want to quit smoking – a phenomenon that is declining in Canada and globally.

The recommendations released on Tuesday are for all adults who want to quit using tobacco products, including cigarettes, water pipes, smokeless tobacco products, cigars, rolling tobacco and heated tobacco products (HTPs). The guidelines are intended for use by healthcare professionals.

The agency recommends a range of clinical interventions, ranging from behavioral support and medications to digital strategies.

“This guidance marks a crucial milestone in our global fight against these dangerous products,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. in a statement.

“It provides countries with the essential tools to effectively support people to quit smoking and reduce the global burden of tobacco-related diseases.”

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The WHO has previously discussed measures to help countries with smoking cessation and tobacco dependence treatment. But these new guidelines build on that effort and other health recommendations the agency has made over the years.

“While this is the first time these formal clinical guidelines have been available internationally, there have been a lot of other things that have come before it,” Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said in an interview with Global News on Tuesday.

“These guidelines provide recommendations that can be implemented across Canada in all provinces to strengthen smoking cessation initiatives. The more we can do to stop smoking, the more impact we will have in reducing the devastating health burden of tobacco use.”

What do the guidelines say?

WHO estimates that more than 60 percent of tobacco users worldwide – approximately 750 million people – want to quit smoking.

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For tobacco smokers who want to quit, WHO strongly recommends varenicline, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), bupropion, and cytisine as effective treatments.

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Varenicline and NRT are recommended for smokeless tobacco users who want to quit.

The agency urged countries to offer these treatments free or at reduced cost to improve access, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

According to the WHO, behavioral support should also be combined with medication. This can be done, for example, through short advice of 30 seconds to three minutes that is routinely given by health care providers. Also, various counseling options can be offered to all tobacco users who want to quit.

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As an additional measure, digital interventions can also be used, for example via text messages, smartphone apps, artificial intelligence and internet programs.

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Cunningham said digital technologies “can be especially useful for younger people” who are more technology savvy.

He noted that the WHO does not recommend vaping products as a smoking cessation strategy given the potential risks associated with them.

Most e-cigarettes and vaping products contain nicotine, a stimulant found in tobacco.

Health Canada has warned that vaping nicotine can “lead to physical dependence and addiction” and expose people to chemicals “that can be harmful to your health.”

The agency advises young people and people who do not use tobacco products not to vape.

In addition to clinical measures, policy interventions such as tobacco taxes and subsidizing nicotine replacement products can also make a difference in reducing tobacco use, Cunningham said.

“What we need in Canada is a comprehensive set of measures to support smoking cessation,” he said.

Last year, Canada became the first country in the world to require warning labels on cigarettes.

Health Canada has set a goal to reduce tobacco use in the country to less than five percent by 2035.

Tobacco use is decreasing

According to the WHO, an estimated eight million people die each year as a result of tobacco use.

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Overall, tobacco use is declining in Canada and globally.

A WHO report published in January found that an estimated 1.25 billion people aged 15 and over – or one in five people on the planet – used tobacco in 2022. This was down from 1.36 billion people, or one in three, in 2000.

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In Canada, approximately 11.4 percent of people aged 15 and over, or 3.7 million people, used tobacco in 2022.

That was down from 2010, when 18.8 percent of that age group used tobacco. The World Health Organization predicted that Canada will reduce its tobacco use by 44 percent next year compared to that year.

“The immense struggle people face when trying to quit smoking cannot be overstated,” said Rüdiger Krech, WHO’s director of health promotion, in a statement.

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“We must fully realize how much strength it takes and how much suffering people and their loved ones have to endure to overcome this addiction.”

In another report published in May, the WHO warned that the global tobacco industry is using “manipulative” tactics to “aggressively” target and entice young people around the world to smoke. The WHO called for a ban on the sale of tobacco and nicotine-related products to minors.

© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Saba Aziz

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