World No Tobacco Day is celebrated on 31 May each year when WHO and its partners raise awareness about the deadly harms of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke which kills 8 million people a year. This year’s theme Commit to Quit challenges smokers of any tobacco product to quit smoking, including e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and smokeless tobacco. Switching is not quitting.
All forms of tobacco are deadly. The nicotine in smokeless tobacco is more easily absorbed than smoking cigarettes, making it more addictive. Heated tobacco products expose users to toxic emissions which can cause cancer. Nicotine in e-cigarettes is highly addictive, and non-smokers and bystanders are exposed to dangerous second-hand smoke.
We commend the local government for taking steps against passive smoking. As early as 2012, Hyogo Prefecture enacted the ‘Ordinance on the Prevention of Passive Smoking’, only the second of its kind in Japan. In April 2020, amendments to the ordinance came into full effect, specifically to protect those under 20 years old and pregnant women from passive smoking. In line with WHO’s recommendations, the amended ordinance treats heated tobacco the same way as cigarette tobacco, and prohibits smoking on the premises of all schools and medical institutions.
Evidence has shown that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19 compared to non-smokers. Tobacco is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes. People with these conditions are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19.
The pandemic has motivated millions of people to want to quit. Quitting tobacco is challenging, especially with the stresses that COVID-19 has brought. Yet it is never too late to quit, and the benefits are almost immediate: after just 20 minutes of quitting smoking, one’s heart rate drops; in 2-12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. People who quit smoking after a heart attack cut their chances of another heart attack by 50%.
Many people do not have the tools to help them quit. WHO’s Commit to Quit campaign with partners and countries will help to
advocate for strong tobacco cessation policies,
increase access to cessation services,
raise awareness of tobacco industry tactics, and
empower tobacco users to try quitting through ‘quit and win’ initiatives.
WHO calls on governments to ensure their citizens have access to advice; toll-free quit lines; mobile and digital cessation services; and nicotine replacement therapies and other tools proven to help people quit. Strong cessation services improve health, save lives and save money. Commit to quit today!