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World No Tobacco Day 2024: protecting children from tobacco industry interference

31 May is the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). This year, once again, WHO and public health champions from across the globe will come together to raise awareness about the harmful influences of the tobacco industry on youth.

Protecting children from tobacco industry interference

This theme of WNTD 2024 is focused on advocating for an end to the targeting of youth with harmful tobacco products. This discourse provides a platform for young people, policy-makers and tobacco control advocates globally to discuss the issue and to urge governments to adopt policies that shield young people from the manipulative practices of the tobacco and related industries. Although cigarette smoking has decreased over the years due to phenomenal efforts by the tobacco control community, more must be done to safeguard these vulnerable groups.

According to 2022 data, worldwide, at least 37 million young people aged 13–15 years use some form of tobacco. In the WHO European Region, 11.5% of boys and 10.1% of girls aged 13–15 years are tobacco users (4 million).

Why the tobacco industry is targeting youth

To keep making billions of dollars in revenue, the tobacco industry needs to replace the millions of customers who die and those who quit tobacco use every year. To achieve this goal, it creates an environment that promotes the uptake of its products among the next generation, including lax regulation to ensure its products are available and affordable. The industry also develops products and advertising tactics that appeal to children and adolescents, reaching them through social media and streaming platforms.

Products such as electronic cigarettes and nicotine pouches are gaining popularity among youth. It is estimated that 12.5% of adolescents in the European Region used e-cigarettes in 2022 compared to 2% of adults. In some countries of the Region, the rates of e-cigarette use among school children are 2–3 times higher than the rates of cigarette smoking.

The industry wilfully sells a deadly dependency to young people, therefore WNTD 2024 calls on the governments and tobacco control community to protect current and future generations and to hold the tobacco industry liable for the harm it causes.