World No Tobacco Day: Tobacco and Young People

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, an initiative of the World Health Organization to fight against smoking, one of the main risk factors for mortality. In this article we'll tell you more about this initiative and its goal to reach young people in particular.
World No Tobacco Day: Tobacco and Young People

Last update: 04 September, 2021

World No Tobacco Day is celebrated every year on May 31, a proposal by the World Health Organization (WHO) to tackle one of the most common addictions. This year, the emphasis is on young people and their exposure to this harmful habit.

For World No Tobacco Day 2020, WHO launched the slogan “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use.” So, the focus is on young people and their vulnerability to tobacco industry propaganda.

We know that cigarette companies have a well-oiled mechanism for advertising, and adolescents are a large part of their current and future market. That’s because when a person starts smoking at an early age, it’s very likely that they’ll continue to do so as an adult.

To achieve their goal, tobacco advertising makes use of myths that overlap within messages that contain truth. Therefore, a young person may believe that nicotine isn’t harmful in small amounts, or that the consumption of a few cigarettes won’t lead to long-term addiction.

As a result, different organizations have taken many measures over the last decades to discourage smoking, but they’re still not enough. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with an industry that moves millions of dollars, and it’s not easy to stop it.

Tobacco as a global problem

According to official WHO figures, there are 8 million deaths a year due to smoking. Among them, about 1 million are due to exposure to smoke from non-smokers.

The problem’s also a socio-economic one, as we can see by observing the distribution of smokers. According to statistics, eighty percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.

So, World No Tobacco Day highlights how the costs to health systems in dealing with the complications of nicotine are enormous. And this is most evident in those poor countries with deteriorating health systems.

In children and young people, the vice is worrying from various aspects. For example, there are tobacco production areas where children work as laborers and come into contact with nicotine directly through their skin.

Children also suffer from second-hand smoking, inhaling deadly smoke that accelerates their risk factors. According to estimates, nearly 65,000 children die each year from problems resulting from this inhalation.

A woman breaking a cigarette in half.
This year’s focus is on protecting young people from tobacco.

Revealing marketing strategies on World No Tobacco Day

Tobacco companies use marketing strategies to push their products. So, World No Tobacco Day 2020 highlighted the convincing effect they have on younger generations.

One of the techniques consists of disseminating messages that imply a low risk of disease from cigarettes. Teenagers hear the message that there’s no harm in using just one cigarette a day, or that electronic versions are healthy, for example.

Another technique is the advertising image that denotes success. When celebrities or personalities that young people admire smoke, promote the consumption of a particular brand or appear with a cigarette in their hand, there’s an implicit message for youth to smoke.

The industry has also modified production to sustain the habit over time and seek to attract teenagers. They’ve added flavors similar to chewing gum to tobacco, for example, and strategically positioning cigarettes in corner stores.

Tobacco companies’ legal mechanisms also play a fundamental role in sustaining these companies. Through powerful bodies of lawyers, they dispute national legislation that hinders their distribution and sale, delaying preventive measures.

How to prevent smoking among young people

A person smoking a cigarette.
Cigarettes are present all over the world, generating multiple diseases.

Fortunately, there are several measures that adults can take to prevent cigarette smoking among adolescents. World No Tobacco Day urges us to take responsibility for our children.

Personal examples are the most powerful measure. Both the testimony of former smokers and a family decision not to allow tobacco smoke in the home are preventive pillars.

The regulation of what children and adolescents see is also important. Being able to warn them about the propaganda that incite consumption and explain to them that they’re being deceived, is a step forward in their understanding of the manipulation and being able to face it.

We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to adolescent smokers. Recommendations and encouragement from adults to quit the habit should be firm. We can’t underestimate the effectiveness of anti-smoking advice and offering it doesn’t require any extra cost for anyone.

Communication on World No Tobacco Day

In conclusion, World No Tobacco Day 2020 aimed to promote communication between adults and young people. And out of that communication will come a bond that will help us safeguard our kids against the dangers of smoking. Therefore, talking to adolescents is the best way to protect their health and encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle.

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