Every year on the 31 May, World No Tobacco Day is celebrated across the world.

It is a day that raises the profile of the health risks of smoking, and encourages smokers to go without cigarettes for the day. During the current pandemic, this is more important than ever – smokers are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, and are also more likely to experience complications as a result of their smoking…

The day furthermore encourages Governments to implement effective measures and policies to reduce tobacco use.

What are the aims?

The World Health Organization first created the day in 1987. It aims to increase awareness of the devastating harms of smoking, secondhand smoking and now thirdhand smoking, as well as highlight the deceitful tactics of the tobacco industry.

It furthermore contributes to protecting present and future generations from starting to smoke, and most importantly, the day encourages and supports smokers to quit.

How devastating is it?

Tobacco use is a threat to any person, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background. It brings suffering, disease, and death, impoverishing families and national economies.

Globally, there are 8 million deaths from tobacco use every year. Of these deaths, more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing in secondhand smoke.

Every year in Australia, 18,762 people die from smoking, and closer to home in Victoria, this is about 4,000 deaths a year that could have been prevented.

What is this year’s theme for World No Tobacco Day?

The theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is “Commit to quit”, and the World Health Organization is offering free resources and digital health workers to help smokers succeed.   

The global pandemic in particular, has encouraged millions of smokers to stop smoking around the world, and this campaign is another reminder, encouraging smokers to have another go – to pledge to quit today.

WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is urging smokers to not delay: “Smokers have up to a 50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19, so quitting is best thing smokers can do to lower their risk from this coronavirus, as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses”

Are you thinking about quitting? Get involved in World No Tobacco Day! 

If you’re thinking about quitting, World No Tobacco Day provides the perfect opportunity to have another go. You can start by not smoking for a few hours, or not smoking for a half a day, or try and quit for the whole day. The decision is yours – take one day at a time and think about the benefits you are gaining.

Think about how good you are feeling and looking! Think about how much money you’re saving – what could you spend that money on?

Want to try but are not sure what to do?

If you’re interested in having a go, it’s important to remember that a craving usually lasts 2 to 5 minutes, so it is important to put some strategies in place that will help you get through the urges. Below are some quick tips that can help you:

  • Eat a piece of fruit, a healthy snack or chew some sugar free gum
  • Play a game on your phone/computer or tablet
  • Do some quick stretches, go for a short walk or do some formal exercise
  • Practice deep breathing or mindfulness by focusing on the present moment
  • Play your favourite music and sing out loud, or dance
  • Brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with mouth wash
  • Use the nicotine patches/some nicotine gum/the lozenges/the mouth spray to help take the edge of your withdrawal symptoms. There are a number of options available at a reduced cost via a prescription – speak to your doctor for further information
  • Use combination therapy (the patch and gum for example), or speak to your doctor about the other prescription medications, such as Zyban and Champix that are also available at reduced cost
  • Call the Quitline (13 7848) for further support

Going smokefree is achievable

Create your own personal list of strategies, as this will help you stay on track.

Quit before? Learn from your previous quitting experiences of what worked and didn’t work, and have another go!

Remember that there are many people who have successfully quit smoking. With the right information and support – you too can be successful.

If you would like further information on quitting, have a look at our previous articles, and for information on World No Tobacco Day, visit the World Health Organization.

Until next time, wishing you all great health and wellbeing and a Happy World No Tobacco Day!

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Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM & Winstanley, MH (2020). Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria.  www.TobaccoInAustralia.org.au

Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health (2014). Let’s make the next generation tobacco-free. Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

World Health Organization (2021). World No Tobacco Day. https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-no-tobacco-day/world-no-tobacco-day-2021