The World Health Organization (WHO) has released the first-ever comprehensive set of tobacco cessation interventions and recommendations.

The guidelines include behavioural support delivered by healthcare providers, digital cessation interventions and pharmacological treatments in a first guideline on tobacco cessation.

It focuses on helping the more than 750m tobacco users who want to quit all forms of tobacco. The recommendations are relevant for all adults seeking to quit various tobacco products, including cigarettes, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco products, cigars, roll-your-own tobacco, and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said, “This guideline marks a crucial milestone in our global battle against these dangerous products. It empowers countries with the essential tools to effectively support individuals in quitting tobacco and alleviate the global burden of tobacco-related diseases.”

Over 60 per cent of the world's 1.25bn tobacco users – more than 750m people – wish to quit, yet 70 per cent lack access to effective cessation services. This gap exists due to challenges faced by health systems, including resource limitations.

Rüdiger Krech, WHO director of health promotion, said, “The immense struggle that people face when trying to quit smoking cannot be overstated. We need to deeply appreciate the strength it takes and the suffering endured by individuals and their loved ones to overcome this addiction. These guidelines are designed to help communities and governments provide the best possible support and assistance for those on this challenging journey.”

Effective therapies for quitting tobacco

Combining pharmacotherapy with behavioural interventions significantly increases quitting success rates. Countries are encouraged to provide these treatments at no or reduced cost to improve accessibility, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

WHO recommends varenicline, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), bupropion, and cytisine as effective treatments for tobacco cessation.

In 2023, WHO initiated a prequalification procedure for medicinal products against disorders caused by tobacco use to improve global access to recommended tobacco cessation medications. In April 2024, Kenvue’s nicotine gum and patch became the first WHO-prequalified NRT products.

The organisation recommends behavioural interventions, including brief health worker counselling (30 seconds to three minutes) offered routinely in health-care settings, alongside more intensive behavioural support (individual, group, or phone counselling) for interested users. Additionally, digital interventions such as text messaging, smartphone apps, and internet programmes can be used as adjuncts or self-management tools.

It encourages healthcare providers, policy-makers, and stakeholders to adopt and implement this guideline to promote tobacco cessation and improve the health of millions of people in need worldwide.