No smoking
The World Health Organisation has partnered with Johnson & Johnson, Amazon and Google in its new anti-tobacco program aimed at introducing new tools to quit smoking. The WHO has been warning that the globe's 1.3 billion tobacco users are at higher risk during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative includes developing nicotine patches and artificial-intelligence-fuelled support to tackle both the physical and mental challenges to quitting tobacco at once.

The Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco program will begin with Jordan, which has the highest rates of tobacco users in the world and will eventually be rolled out to other countries. Dr Ruediger Krech of WHO said that the partnership with tech and pharmaceutical industries will improve people's health and save lives during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Partners contribute to WHO's initiative

The first batch of nicotine patches will be provided by Johnson & Johnson. New Zealand-based tech company Soul Machines has donated "Florence" which is an AI-powered digital persona designed to help with the mental aspects of addiction.

Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud will support AI technology for its widespread use in this project. J&J has already donated 37,800 Nicorette patches worth about $750,000 to help over 5,000 Jordanians to quit smoking.

If the program's success, it could be a blow to sales of both cigarettes and the so-called reduced-risk nicotine products that big companies have been positioning as safer products as their cigarette sales decline.

Florence, the AI "digital health worker," will be on the WHO's site and can be accessed around the world.

The tool is expected to work well in Jordan, where nearly 50 per cent of the population is under 25 years of age. The government there has already moved to ban smoking in public places amid the pandemic. Even though around 60 per cent of tobacco users want to quit, only 30 per cent of them have access to helpful tools, WHO said.