On World No Tobacco Day, WHO spotlights role of health professionals in tobacco control

31 May 2005

On “World No Tobacco Day”, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) is urging health professionals to be more proactive in minimizing the problems caused by tobacco addiction, consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

“Tobacco continues to be a leading global killer, with nearly five million deaths a year,” notes Dr Lee Jong-wook, WHO Director-General, and “health professionals are on the frontline. They need the skills to help people stop smoking, and they need to lead by example, and quit tobacco use themselves.”

World No Tobacco Day will be launched today by WHO and the United Kingdom Department of Health in London. Thousands of other national and local activities and celebrations are taking place around the world. The theme of this year’s event focuses on the role of heath professionals.

Without additional efforts to implement solutions now, an estimated 10 million tobacco-related deaths a year will occur by 2020, most of them in developing countries, WHO says.

Health professionals, including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, midwives and others, are trusted sources of information and advice, and are themselves role models in matters related to health. They are in contact with a high percentage of the population and can be instrumental in helping people change their behaviour.

Studies show that even brief advice from health professionals can increase tobacco abstinence rates up to 30%. Interventions for smoking cessation led by nurses have shown to increase the chance of successfully quitting smoking by up to 50%.

However, data from a newly-released survey by the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (CDC) and WHO shows that a more systematic approach to engaging health professionals in tobacco control is needed, starting with training.

Smoking prevalence among health professionals is itself often a barrier for their involvement in tobacco control. Seven out of 10 countries reported cigarette smoking prevalence greater than 20 per cent and in 8 out of the 16 surveys, it was over 30 per cent. Prevalence ranged between 0.5 per cent and 47 per cent, the lowest found among nursing students in Uganda and the highest among pharmacy students in Albania.

 

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