WHO: Millions of youth fall victim to tobacco industry every year

May 24, 2024  10:20

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for children to be protected from the tobacco industry, which is seeking to increase the number of consumers of its products. In a report published in Geneva, the WHO states that every year millions of young people fall victim to the "manipulative tactics" of tobacco manufacturers.

All over the world, about 37 million children aged 13-15 use tobacco. In many countries, the rate of e-cigarette use among adolescents exceeds that of adults. Twenty percent of 15-year-olds surveyed in the WHO European region reported that they had used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, said the WHO.

"Every year, millions of young people fall victim to the tobacco industry’s manipulative tactics," Ruediger Krech, the WHO’s director of health promotion, said at a news conference Thursday. "The industry is exploiting digital and social media delivery apps and other innovative ways to reach our children. At the same time, they are continuing with old tricks such as giving away free samples to recruit a new generation as customers. In addition, the tobacco and related industries use child-friendly flavors such as cotton candy and bubble gum to appeal to young consumers. According to a US study, more than 70% of young e-cigarette users would quit smoking if the products were available only in tobacco flavor.

In some cases, retailers offer more than 16,000 flavors of e-cigarettes, with many products featuring sleek and colorful designs that appeal to kids and teens, Krech said. While all of this is aggressively marketed to youth, the tobacco industry continues to insist that these products are intended for adults. However, their goal is clear: they seek to replace dead and sick tobacco users and thus attract new addicted users.

As the director of the aforesaid WHO department emphasized, in this situation one cannot stand by and watch indifferently. Governments must protect current and future generations by taking strong action in accordance with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These measures include a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and holding companies, marketers, and media accountable for violating the ban, raising tobacco taxes, and banning its sales to minors.

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