Good morning and welcome to our Science Centre at the Norwegian Cancer Society. A Perfect venue for launching a chatbot.

Today, at this time of day, health leaders – ministers and presidents – from around the world will meet in New York at the United Nations High Level Meeting to decide ways to tackle the challenges posed by non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, diabetes, heart and lung diseases.  

We have had three High Level Meetings over the past 7 years, the first in 2011, and as a follow-up the World Health Organisation sat the ambitious target of reducing premature NCD mortality by 25% by 2025. Tobacco use is the main risk factor for disease and death.

As for tobacco the target is a reduction of 30 %. A tobacco free future is the goal set in many countries: Ireland and New Zealand aim to be tobacco-free by 2025, United Kingdom (Scotland) by 2034 and Finland by 2040.

Norway is committed to these goals. Even if we have not set an end-game year for tobacco, in our approach it will have to be in the near future, same as the countries mentioned. Consequently, we need to speed up. The only answer is greater efforts on smoking cessation.

Outcomes of the political declaration to be adopted today is known. Norway has been among the countries that have pushed for strong commitments, but sadly, the result is not nearly as ambitious as we hoped for. In essence, it is vague, and lacks the political vision needed to go from commitments to action. Including on Tobacco Control.

However, the given strong standing Norway has on NCDs, we hope that this will be taken as a – how can I put it – a provocation. And that we step up to take a leader-role on the global scene, inspired by our great achievements on many fronts in Norway.

I will use this occasion to congratulate the Norwegian health authorities. You, in cooperation with the civil society, NGOs like The Norwegian Cancer Society and The Norwegian Medical Association, have played an important role to prevent young people from starting to use tobacco products. We see very positive results.

And equally important you have done a great job to assist smokers with the necessary tools to quit.

Many smokers want to stop smoking, many attempt to stop smoking, unfortunately many do not succeed.

We must continue to work together. We have a common responsibility to help smokers, not only as a public health measure, but also to reduce future health expenses. The Health Authorities must invest more in tobacco cessation.

Smoking cessation is not for free, but it’s nothing compared to the alternative which is so much worse – economically as well as human suffering and premature loss of life.

For example, giving intensive smoking cessation support to a cancer patient in cancer treatment costs around 3000 NOK. The gold standard for smoking cessation is to combine cessation advice with medical support. A 12 weeks nicotine patches treatment costs around 2500 kroner. In other words, the gold standard of smoking cessation might cost around 5500 per person. How much do you think lung cancer treatment in hospitals will cost? In average for one person, at least 200.000 NOK.

The gap is enormous. These figures lead to only one conclusion: We must continue, and escalate, methods to help people quit smoking.

Some examples of what to do that we are not already doing:  

Many people consider buying nicotine patches a waste of money. No smoker likes spending money on smoking cessation products. The Norwegian Cancer Society recommends that they should be free. At least for targeted groups. (Like for instance, condoms are given for free to targeted groups to prevent Aids/HIV).

General practitioners, oncologist and other health personnel should regularly ask their patients about tobacco use (cigarettes and snus) and refer them to cessation programmes.

Smoking cessation should be a natural component of hospital treatment, since the effect of the treatment increases when you are smoke-free.

And of course, new kinds of technology give a chance to intervene with less costs and more specific tools. There are already a lot of apps and other devices designed to help people to improve their health in many ways. We are used to navigate all parts of our lives by using smartphone. And interact in social media.

In addition, one important aspect is that we manage to reach the smokers that really need assistance to quit smoking. We know that smoking is one of the most important contributing factors to inequalities in health. For that reason, we need to increase our effort towards these groups of smokers. The challenge is that it´s difficult to know how. None of us have succeeded yet. But it does not mean that we give up. On the contrary, we need to join forces. Because: Tobacco control actions must be presented and made available for the most vulnerable groups of smokers!

I hope that the new Slutta chatbot will motivate a lot of people to quit smoking.  Lives will be saved.

The Norwegian Cancer Society will do our best to promote this new tool to the public. I am certain that The Norwegian Medical Association will do the same.

Although the Outcome from New York is not what we have hoped for in terms of new commitments to step up action – the goal is still very clear: tobacco must be fought at all fronts. Norway is uniquely positioned to take a leading role – and we look forward to our continued collaboration on ending the tobacco epidemic.

Once more. Congratulations with the launch of the Stopptober campaign and the Slutta chatbot!

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