FILE - Children wear strings of cigarette and chewable tobacco and rehearse for a play on World No Tobacco Day in Gauhati, India.
FILE - Children wear strings of cigarette and chewable tobacco and rehearse for a play on World No Tobacco Day in Gauhati, India.

GENEVA - The World Health Organization accuses the tobacco industry of devious tactics to get children and young people hooked on their deadly tobacco and nicotine products.  In advance of World No Tobacco Day (May 31), the WHO is launching a campaign to alert young people to the dangers they face from the industry’s manipulative practices.

More than 40 million young people aged 13 to 15 smoke and use other tobacco products. The World Health Organization says the tobacco industry tries to get children and young people hooked on tobacco early in life, knowing this will turn them into life-long smokers.
 
Unfortunately, WHO says many smokers do not live very long.  Every year, it notes millions of people have their lives cut short because of cancers, heart disease and other smoking-related illnesses.
 
Coordinator of WHO’s No Tobacco Unit, Vinayak Prasad, says the tobacco industry invests more than $9 billion a year to advertise its products.  He says much of this huge budget targets young people with attractive promotional campaigns.
 
“At the moment, they are spending a million dollars an hour, which is by the time we finish our press conference, that is a million dollars spent,” said Prasad.  "And, why are they doing it?  They are doing it to find replacements users.  Eight million premature deaths every year.  So, they need to find new replacements.”  

WHO says the industry sets its sights on the next generation of users by targeting children and young people in markets where tobacco products are not regulated and they can be manipulated easily.   
 
WHO is launching a new kit for school students aged 13 to 17 to protect them from the tobacco industry’s exploitative practices.  WHO Director of Health Promotion, Ruediger Krech says the kit alerts young people to the industry’s devious tactics and teaches them to say no.
 
“The tool kit exposes tactics such as parties and concerts hosted by the tobacco and related industries, e-cigarette flavors that attract youth in like bubble-gum and candy, e-cigarette representatives presenting in schools, and product placement in popular youth streaming shows,” said Krech.
 
WHO is calling on all sectors of society to prevent the tobacco industry from preying on youth.  To reach a young audience, the agency is spreading its no tobacco message on  TikTok, Pinterest, YouTube and other social media.
 
Health officials urge schools, celebrities and influencers to reject all offers of sponsorship from the industry.  They call on TV and streaming services to stop showing tobacco or e-cigarette use on screen.   
 
They say governments should ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and should enact strict tobacco control laws.