ISLAMABAD: A World Health Organisation (WHO) report released in connection with World No Tobacco Day has exposed a disturbing trend that e-cigarette use among young people is exceeding that of adults in many countries, with an estimated 37 million children aged between 13 and 15 years using tobacco around the globe.

It says industries use child-friendly flavours like cotton candy and bubble gum to attract young consumers: there are over 16,000 flavours of e-cigarettes on some markets. Many products have sleek and colourful designs which appeal to children and adolescents.

Titled ‘Hooking the Next Generation’ and released in connection with World No Tobacco Day, which is marked every year on May 31, the WHO report claims the industry is exploiting digital and social media, delivery apps, and other innovative ways to reach children.

“At the same time, they are continuing with old tricks such as giving away free samples to recruit a new generation as customers. Tobacco and related industries use child-friendly flavours like cotton candy and bubble gum to attract young consumers: there are over 16,000 flavours of e-cigarettes on some markets. Many products have sleek and colourful designs which appeal to children and adolescents,” it stated.

With as many as 16,000 flavours, e-cigarette use among children on the rise

“And while these products are aggressively marketed to young people, the industry continues to claim that these products are intended for adults. But the industry’s goal is clear: replace tobacco users lost to death and disease with a fresh wave of users trapped in addiction,” it added.

“We can’t stand by and watch this happen. This World No Tobacco Day, young people across the world raise their voices and demand change. It is the responsibility of adults to protect children. It’s therefore high time for all governments to protect current and future generations from the devastating effects of tobacco use by adopting strong measures in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” Health Promotion Director Dr Rüdiger Krech said.

Actions proposed

The report has suggested to implementing and enforcing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship as well as addressing digital and cross-border marketing and the depiction of tobacco in entertainment media. It suggests that regulators should hold the industry, marketers, digital platforms and media owners accountable for breaching such bans.

It has also suggested raising prices and taxes on tobacco, nicotine and related products to make them less affordable. Other suggestions include banning sales of the products to minors and enforce such bans, taking proactive measures to protect health policy from the vested interests of the tobacco industry, taking a whole-of-government approach to protect policy from industry influence.

The WHO has invited young people to consider joining the movement that can create a world where tobacco is nothing more than a relic of the past — a world where every individual has the opportunity to live a life free from the harms of tobacco and nicotine use.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2024

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