The theme for World No Tobacco Day which fell on 31st May is ‘Protect youth from industry manipulation to save them from tobacco and nicotine use’.
The internal documents of the tobacco industry reveal in-depth research and calculated approaches designed to attract a new generation of tobacco users, from product design to marketing campaigns aimed at replacing the millions of people who die each year from tobacco attributable diseases with potential users-the youth. The tobacco industry has been engaged for decades with deliberately employed strategic, aggressive and well-resourced tactics to attract the youth to tobacco and nicotine products.
The industry by using systematic, aggressive and sustained tactics to attract a new generation of tobacco users, in order to replace with the dead tobacco users due to tobacco related diseases. The World No Tobacco Day 2020 focuses enlightening people to counter marketing campaign and empower youth to be aware of strategies that the industry uses to capture them and save everybody by fighting against the Big Tobacco.
As a tobacco control advocate, I would like to enlighten the people of Sri Lanka, especially, dear youngsters, of the following;
- Demystify myths associated with smoking and expose manipulation tactics employed by the tobacco and nicotine industries, particularly marketing tactics targeted at youth, including through the introduction of new and novel products, flavours and other attractive features;
- Impart young people with knowledge about the tobacco and nicotine industries’ intentions and tactics to hook current and future generations (potential users) on tobacco and nicotine products; and
- Empower influencers (in pop culture, on social media, in the home, or in the classroom) to protect and defend youth and catalyze change by engaging them in the fight against Big Tobacco.
The following are the ways that tobacco and nicotine industries influence youth;
Use of flavours that are attractive to youth in tobacco and nicotine products, like cherry, bubble gum and cotton candy, which encourages young people to underestimate the related health risks and to start using them.
Attractive and deceptive products with sleek designs, such as shaped like a USB or candy are manufactured and promoted targeting you youth.
Promote these lethal products as “with reduced harm” or “cleaner” as alternatives to conventional cigarettes in the absence of objective science substantiating to these claims.
Celebrity/influencer sponsorships and brand sponsored contests are adopted to promote tobacco and nicotine products such as Instagram influencers.
Point-of-sale marketing at vendor outlets frequented by children, including positioning near sweets, snacks or soda and providing premiums for vendors to ensure their products are displayed near venues frequented by young people (includes providing marketing materials and display cases to retailers)
Sale of single stick cigarettes and other tobacco and nicotine products near schools, which makes it cheap and easy for school children to access tobacco and nicotine products.
Indirect marketing of tobacco products in movies, TV shows and online streaming shows.
Tobacco vending machines at venues frequented by young people, covered in attractive advertising and pack displays, and undermining regulations on sales to minors.
Litigation to weaken all kinds of tobacco control regulations including warning labels, display at point of sale, and regulations that limit access and marketing to children (specifically provisions to ban the sale and advertising of tobacco products near schools.)
Regardless of the millions of people that untimely become a prey to industry tactics, the tobacco and nicotine industry pretends that they promote freedom of personal choice while really ensuring eternal profits and deceiving generations to come to enroll as their customers.
Thus we need to raise awareness and empower youth to stand up to Big Tobacco by exposing industry’s lies.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states; “Most smokers use tobacco regularly because they are addicted to nicotine. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, even in the face of negative health consequences. The majority of smokers would like to stop smoking, and each year about half try to quit permanently. Yet, only about 6 percent of smokers are able to quit in a given year. Most smokers will need to make multiple attempts before they are able to quit permanently.”
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids states; “ Numerous internal tobacco industry documents, revealed in various tobacco lawsuits, show that the tobacco companies have perceived kids as young as 13 years of age as a key market, studied the smoking habits of kids, and developed products and marketing campaigns aimed directly at them. As an RJR Tobacco document put it, “Many manufacturers have ‘studied’ the 14-20 market in hopes of uncovering the ‘secret’ of the instant popularity some brands enjoy to the almost exclusion of others. . . . Creating a ‘fad’ in this market can be a great bonanza. - Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens…The smoking patterns of teenagers are particularly important to them.”
The FDA states; “ In fact, use of tobacco products, no matter what type, is almost always started and established during adolescence when the developing brain is most vulnerable to nicotine addiction.
Considering substantial evidence supporting mass media campaigns as an effective strategy to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use, FDA developed and launched its first tobacco prevention campaign, “The Real Cost.” The award-winning campaign has been extremely successful in reaching at-risk youth with messages about the dangers of cigarette smoking. “
The scientific evidence contained in the tobacco-related Surgeon General’s report describes the epidemic of tobacco use among youth ages 12 through 17 and young adults ages 18 through 25, including the epidemiology, causes, and health effects of this tobacco use and interventions proven to prevent it.
The authorities concerned have made progress in reducing tobacco use among youth; however, far too many young people are still using tobacco.
Every day, people worldwide die due to smoking. For each of those deaths, at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers each day. Almost 90% of those replacement smokers smoke their first cigarette by age 18.
There could be millions fewer young smokers today, if success in reducing youth tobacco use that was made between 1997 and 2030 had been sustained.
Use of multiple tobacco products - including cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco - is common among young people.
Prevention efforts must focus on young adults ages 18 through 25, too. Almost no one starts smoking after the age 25. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers started smoking by age 18, and 99% started by age 26. Progression from occasional to daily smoking almost always occurs by age 26.
Tobacco use by youth and young adults causes both immediate and long-term damage. One of the most serious health effects is nicotine addiction, which prolongs tobacco use and can lead to severe health consequences. The younger youth are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they will be addicted.
Early cardiovascular damage is seen in most young smokers; those most sensitive die very young. Smoking reduces lung function and retards long growth. Teens who smoke are not only short of breath today, they may end up as adults with lungs that will never grow to full capacity. Such damage is permanent and increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Youth are sensitive to nicotine and can feel dependent earlier than adults. Because of nicotine addiction, about three out of four teen smokers end up smoking into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years.
Among youth who persist in smoking, a third will die prematurely from smoking.
Youth are vulnerable to social and environmental influences to use tobacco; messages and images that make tobacco use appealing to them are everywhere. Young people want to fit in with their peers. Images in tobacco marketing make tobacco use look appealing to this age group.
Youth and young adults see smoking in their social circles, movies they watch, video games they play, websites they visit, and many communities where they live. Smoking is often portrayed as a social norm, and young people exposed to these images are more likely to smoke.
Youth identify with peers they see as social leaders and may imitate their behaviour; those whose friends or siblings smoke are more likely to smoke.
Youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke. Those who get the most exposure to onscreen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure. Images of smoking in movies have declined over the past decade. But in 2010 nearly a third of top grossing movies produced for children. Tobacco industry spends millions of dollars to market their products. This report concludes that tobacco product advertising and promotions still entice far too many young people to start using tobacco.
The tobacco industry has stated that its marketing only promotes brand choices among adult smokers. Regardless of intent, this marketing encourages underage youth to smoke. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start by age 18, and more than 80% of underage smokers choose brands from among the top three most heavily advertised.
The more young people are exposed to cigarette advertising and promotional activities, the more likely they are to smoke.
The Surgeon General’s report finds that extensive use of price-reducing promotion has led to higher rates of tobacco use among young people than would have occurred in the absence of these promotions.
Many tobacco products on the market appeal to youth. Some cigarette-sized cigars contain candy and fruit flavouring, such as strawberry and grape.
Many of the newest smokeless tobacco products do not require users to spit, and others dissolve like mints. These products dissolve strips and lozenges. Young people find these products appealing because they can be used without detection at school or other places where smoking is banned. But these products cause nicotine addiction. Most youth who use them also smoke cigarettes.
Through the use of advertising and promotional activities, packaging, and product design, the tobacco industry encourages the myth that smoking makes you thin.
This message is especially appealing to young girls. This is not true - teen smokers are not thinner than nonsmokers.
Comprehensive, sustained, multi-component programs can cut youth tobacco use in half in 6 years.
Strategies that comprise successful comprehensive tobacco control programs include mass media campaigns, higher tobacco prices, smoke-free laws and policies, evidence-based school programs, and sustained community- wide efforts.