OTCs in Action Episode 33: NRTs part of WHO tobacco campaign


Nicotine addiction is a hot news item this month, as Beijing’s historic ban on smoking in indoor public spaces, workplaces and public transport, as well as many types of outdoor areas, becomes effective. Tobacco advertising & promotion, as well as sales to minors, are outlawed as well. It will likely take years for the city to truly become smoke-free, but it’s a start. A pragmatic New York Times article, Beijing Bans Public Smoking, but Enforcement Poses a Challenge, notes: “The municipal Government has banned smoking twice before — in 1996 and before the 2008 Olympic Games — and each time the ban was widely ignored, with smoke continuing to waft through hotel lobbies, public lavatories and gym locker rooms.” Source.

Banning smoking is one of the foundations of the World Health Organization’s crusade against tobacco. In WHO’s Global Report on the Tobacco Epidemic 2015, Assistant Director-General, Dr Oleg Chestnov, cautions: “As tobacco use is the largest preventable risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), strong tobacco control efforts will have a huge role to play in … ensuring countries’ development and prosperity. If we are to succeed in achieving the targets we set for ourselves this year, we must continue our fight to rid the world of its leading preventable cause of death.”

Affordable access to this week’s OTCs in Action, nicotine replacement therapies (NRT), is an important component of the WHO’s strategy. It reports that in 2014:

  • While comprehensive cost-covered services are available in only one in eight countries globally, more than 80% of countries have cessation services available in one or more settings, and three quarters of these provide some cost coverage for these services
  • One in four countries provides some cost coverage for nicotine replacement therapy, and almost a third provide a toll-free quit line. In total, over 90% of countries (with more than 98% of the world’s population) provide at least some form of assistance to quit

However, there’s massive room for improvement, especially in developing countries. While more than 90% of high-income countries cost-cover cessation services, and more than half support a toll-free quit line, low-income countries have the lowest rates of service provision, with only 18% of low- income countries cost-covering cessation services and only 9% funding a quit line.