1.2 million non-smokers die from tobacco smoke exposure annually: WHO

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Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, says no fewer than 1.2 million people die annually due to exposure to tobacco smoke.

Ms Moeti said this in her message to mark 2021 World No Tobacco Day with the theme, ‘Commit to quit.’

May 31 of every year is World No Tobacco Day.

She said, “Tobacco use can lead to lung, mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, and other cancers. It increases the risk of chest and lung infections, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions.

“There is no safe form of tobacco. The theme this year is because the choice to stop tobacco use is in our hands. Millions of people have been motivated to quit tobacco during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to her, this is because of evidence showing tobacco smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off coronavirus and other diseases.

Ms Moeti added that of the 1.3 billion tobacco users globally, 60 per cent had expressed the desire to quit.

”But only 30 per cent have access to the tools to do so successfully,” she noted. “More than 75 million people in the African region use some form of tobacco. This burden is likely to increase as consumer purchasing power improves coupled with intensive efforts by the tobacco industry to expand the African market.’’

The WHO official explained that public health advocates should pursue counter-marketing campaigns that highlight the many risks of tobacco use.

”So far, support to quit is available in primary health care facilities in 11 countries and in Angola, Botswana, and Zambia. These services are offered at no cost to consumers.

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“Nicotine replacement therapy is sold in pharmacies in 19 countries with governments fully covering the costs in Eswatini, Mauritius, and Seychelles. Nicotine replacement therapy is included in the essential medicines list in Algeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa. Burkina Faso is implementing ‘mTobaccoCessation,’ a mobile text messaging-based solution,’’ she disclosed.

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