World No Tobacco Day 2020: Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use.
For decades, the tobacco industry has deliberately employed strategic, aggressive and well-resourced tactics to attract youth to tobacco and nicotine products. Internal industry documents reveal in-depth research and calculated approaches designed to attract a new generation of tobacco users, from product design to marketing campaigns aimed at replacing the millions of people who die each year from tobacco-attributable diseases with new consumers – youth.
In response to the tobacco and related industries’ systematic, aggressive and sustained tactics to attract a new generation of tobacco users, World No Tobacco Day 2020 will provide a counter-marketing campaign and empower young people to engage in the fight against Big Tobacco.
Leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment in the World
- The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year around the world.
- More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
- Around 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest. Tobacco use contributes to poverty by diverting household spending from basic needs such as food and shelter to tobacco. This spending behavior is difficult to curb because tobacco is so addictive.
In the United States, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death:
- Based on 2018 data, about 34 million US adults smoke cigarettes.
- Every day, about 1,600 young people under age 18 years smoke their first cigarette, and nearly 200 begin smoking cigarettes daily.
- Over 16 million people live with at least one disease caused by smoking, and 58 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke.
- In 2017, 6% of Illinois high school youth reported currently using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes. Among Illinois high school youth, 7.6% reported currently smoking cigarettes.
- 5% of adults smoked cigarettes in 2018.
- 18,300 adults die from smoking-related illnesses each year
- $5.5B was spent on healthcare costs related to smoking in 2009
The economic costs of tobacco use are substantial and include significant health care costs for treating the disease caused by tobacco use as well as the lost human capital that results from tobacco-attributable morbidity and mortality. In some countries, children from poor households are employed in tobacco farming to boost family income. These children are especially vulnerable to "green tobacco sickness", which is caused by the nicotine that is absorbed through the skin from the handling of wet tobacco leaves.
In the United States, $170 billion in direct medical costs could be saved every year if we could prevent youth from starting to smoke and help every person who smokes to quit.
The ecological costs and impacts of smoking are significant as well:
- Cigarette butts are consistently the most common litter item worldwide, in every type of location; ex. coastlines, waterways, roadways, playgrounds, retail areas, storm drains, etc. Some estimates are that 4-5 trillion cigarettes are littered every year. Cities spend between $3 mil - $16 mil per year on cigarette clean up.
- Cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals into the environment like arsenic and heavy metals. Smoked and unsmoked cigarettes lead to both short- and long-term metal contamination in soils and waters. In controlled experiments, one cigarette butt in 1 L of water killed half of fish (Slaughter, E., Gersberg, R. M., Watanabe, K., Rudolph, J., Stransky, C., & Novotny, T. E. (2011). Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish. Tobacco control, 20(Suppl 1), i25-29.
- 98% of cigarette filters are made of plastic fibers, so they do not biodegrade under the typical conditions in which they are disposed of or littered. This also means that they can impact the immediate environment for a long time; and it is likely that the same butts are swallowed (and kill) several fish over several years.
- There is still not sufficient independent research (i.e. research not supported by tobacco industry) on cigarette pollution and environmental health.
How can you join the fight against the tobacco epidemic?
- Celebrities and social influencers – Reject offers of “brand ambassadorship” and refuse any form of sponsorship by nicotine and tobacco industries.
- Social media companies – Ban advertising, promotion and sponsorship by the nicotine and tobacco industries and prohibit influencer marketing of tobacco or nicotine products.
- Film, television or drama production companies – Pledge not to depict tobacco use or e-cigarette use.
- Parents and relatives – Educate children and adolescents on the harms of nicotine and tobacco product use and empower them to reject industry manipulation.
- Nurses and health practitioners – Provide children, adolescents, young adults and their parents, with updated information about the risks associated with use of these products and empower users to quit through the offer of brief cessation advice.
- Schools– Raise awareness of the dangers of initiating nicotine and tobacco product use, adopt tobacco and e-cigarette free campuses, refuse any form of sponsorship by the nicotine and tobacco industries, and prohibit representatives from nicotine and tobacco companies from speaking at school events, school camps, etc.
- Youth groups – Organize local events to engage and educate your peers and build a movement for a tobacco-free generation. Advocate for the adoption of effective tobacco control policies in your community to curb and prevent the manipulation of nicotine and tobacco industries
- National and local governments – Support the implementation of comprehensive tobacco control policies, as outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This can help prevent industry evasion of tobacco control legislation and exploitation of regulatory loopholes, protect children and adolescents from industry manipulation and prevent younger generations from initiating nicotine and tobacco product use.
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