Young People are Key to a Nicotine-free Future: Five Steps to Stop them Smoking

Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of premature death and disability worldwide: warns WHO ahead of World No Tobacco Day

Credit: Bigstock

By External Source
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, May 31 2020 – Tobacco use kills more than 8 million people each year. Most adult smokers start smoking before the age of 20. This implies that if one can get through adolescence without smoking, the likelihood of being a smoker in adulthood is greatly reduced.

Preventing young people from becoming addicted to tobacco and related products is therefore key to a smoke-free future.

With the advent of novel tobacco products and the tobacco industry falsely marketing them as less harmful than their combustible counterparts, the adage “prevention is better than cure” has never been more important for governments to heed if we are to achieve a smoke-free future.

Here are five things that governments need to do to ensure that a smoke-free future is realised.

1. Raise taxes on tobacco products

Tobacco taxation is one of the most effective population-based strategies for decreasing tobacco consumption. On average, a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces demand for cigarettes by between 4% and 6% for the general adult population.

Because they lack disposable income and have a limited smoking history, young people are more responsive to price increases than their adult counterparts. Young people’s price responsiveness is also explained by the fact that they are also more likely to smoke if their peers smoke. This suggests that an increase in tobacco taxes also indirectly reduces youth smoking by decreasing smoking among their peers.

2. Introduce 100% smoke-free environments

Smoke-free policies reduce opportunities to smoke and erode societal acceptance of smoking. Most countries have some form of smoke-free policy in place. But there are still many public spaces where smoking happens. Many of these places are frequented by young people – or example, smoking sections in nightclubs and bars – contributing to the idea that smoking is acceptable and “normal”.

Research from the United States shows that creating smoke-free spaces reduces youth smoking uptake and the likelihood of youth progressing from experimental to established smokers. In the United Kingdom, smoke-free places have been linked to a reduction in regular smoking among teenagers, and research from Australia finds that smoke-free policies were directly related to a drop in youth smoking prevalence between 1990 and 2015. By adopting 100% smoke-free policies governments can denormalise smoking and turn youth away from tobacco and related products.

3. Adopt plain packaging and graphic health warnings

The tobacco industry uses sleek and attractive designs to market its dangerous products to young people. All tobacco products should therefore be subject to plain packaging and graphic health warnings so that their attractive packaging designs do not lead youth to underestimate the harm of using these products. Currently 125 countries require graphic images on the packaging of tobacco products. Countries like South Africa that rely on a text warning message are far behind the curve. Plain packaging on tobacco products has been adopted in 13 countries to date and, in January 2020, Israel became the first country to apply plain packaging to e-cigarettes.

4. Outlaw tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship

Traditional advertising and promotion of tobacco products has been banned in most parts of the world. But the tobacco industry has developed novel ways of keeping its products in the public eye.

Some common strategies used by the industry to target youth include hiring “influencers” to promote tobacco and nicotine products on social media, sponsoring events, and launching new flavours that are appealing to youth, such as bubble gum and cotton candy, which encourages young people to underestimate the potential harm of using them. Evidence also shows how the tobacco industry uses point-of-sale marketing to target children by encouraging vendors to position tobacco and related products near sweets, snacks and cooldrinks, especially in outlets close to schools.

Governments need to outlaw these tactics and impose hefty fines on tobacco companies that make any attempt to circumvent the law.

5. Educate young people

Given that tobacco kills half of its long-term users, the tobacco industry needs to get young people addicted to its products to ensure its survival. Young people need to be made aware of this. Governments should launch counter-advertising campaigns that educate young people on the tactics employed by the industry to target them so that they do not fall prey to them.The Conversation

Sam Filby, Research Officer, Research on the Economics of Excisable Products,, University of Cape Town and Corné van Walbeek, Professor at the School of Economics and Principal Investigator of the Economics of Tobacco Control Project, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Elimination of Leprosy

Traveling man: the Goodwill Ambassador shares a joke with two residents of a leprosarium in Krantau, Uzbekistan during a visit in 2013.

By External Source
May 29 2020 (IPS-Partners)

Warm greetings from Sasakawa Health Foundation in Tokyo.

The 100th Issue of the WHO Goodwill Ambassador’s Newsletter has been published. Read special interviews with the Goodwill Ambassador and the UN Special Rapporteur on leprosy, and check out the Timeline of all that has happened since the first issue.

My Journey Continues

I started this newsletter in April 2003 to share information about the fight against leprosy. This marks the 100th issue. Over the years I have reported my views on leprosy elimination and activities taking place around the world. As I write, we are in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. I commend the tireless efforts of medical personnel and hope the outbreak will be contained as quickly as possible.

As Goodwill Ambassador I have visited some 100 countries and attach particular importance to three points: 1) going to see the situation for myself, listening directly to what people have to say and clarifying what the issues are; 2) making use of newspapers, TV, radio, social and other media to communicate correct information about the disease to people around the world; and 3) meeting with presidents and prime ministers to persuade them to actively tackle leprosy.

My motto is “knowledge and practice go together.” While I respect the insights and information contained in reports, I believe there is no substitute for checking the situation in the field with my own eyes as this represents a more direct route to finding real solutions. Therefore, I have made a point of traveling to remote areas where experts have not been in the belief that my words will be more persuasive and catch people’s attention.

Yohei Sasakawa visits Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2003 to raise leprosy as human rights issue, the start of repeated visits to Geneva.

In my lifetime I have met with 458 current and former presidents and prime ministers to explain about leprosy and request their cooperation. That number runs into thousands if I add ministers, deputy ministers and governors. Compared to diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS, there are far fewer cases of leprosy. Unless you regularly engage with the person at the top, chances are the budget for the leprosy program will be cut.

What has left a lasting impression on me are my encounters with persons affected by leprosy who have found the strength to overcome the challenges they face. All over the world I have met individuals existing in unimaginably desperate circumstances, abandoned by their families and living on their own for many years. For some, there has been no other recourse but to begging to survive.

But in India, Indonesia, Brazil, Ethiopia and many other countries, persons affected by leprosy are making their voices heard and becoming increasingly organized. What they have to say carries more weight and is more persuasive than if I were to make 1,000 speeches. The role they have to play in advancing our efforts against the disease is particularly important.

Global Forum of People’s Organizations on Hansen’s Disease, Manila, Philippines in 2019. Participants underscore that Hansen’s disease is not just a health issue but at an issue of human rights.

As Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, I have worked with governments over the years to achieve the numerical target that was set by the WHO of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem, where elimination was defined as a prevalence rate of less than one case per 10,000 population. But achieving ‘elimination’ did not equate to no more leprosy. Elimination was a milestone.

In recent years, “Zero Leprosy” has been put forward as the goal. Many people have asked me if this is possible. My answer is that it doesn’t matter where the goal is; what is important is to keep heading toward it. No matter how long the tunnel, if you keep going you will eventually see the light at the end. Everyone just needs to continue their efforts.

My dream is for an inclusive society in which not only persons affected by leprosy but also persons with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups suffering from social discrimination all have a place.

Hence this journey I am embarked on will continue. I do not know if the goal of zero leprosy and zero discrimination will be achieved in my lifetime, but I believe it will be realized one day and so I will continue to do my best to help us get there.

— Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador

(This is an extended version of the Goodwill Ambassador’s Message appearing in the print edition of Issue #100 of the newsletter.)


My Journey Continues

Special Interview I:
Our Goal Is Not Yet in Sight, Yohei Sasakawa, Goodwill Ambassador

Reviewing developments in leprosy over the course of 100 issues of the newsletter

Special Interview II:
Encouraging Signs, Alice Cruz, UN Special Rapporteur on leprosy

Leprosy and COVID-19