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WHO and STOP Launch Report on Tobacco Industry's Targeting of Youth

The World Health Organization (WHO) and STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog, launched "Hooking the Next Generation," a report highlighting how the tobacco and nicotine industry designs products, implements marketing campaigns, and shapes policy environments to addict the world's youth. This release comes just ahead of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, when WHO will amplify the voices of young people urging governments to protect them from being targeted by the tobacco and nicotine industry.

The report reveals that globally, an estimated 37 million children aged 13-15 use tobacco, and in many countries, the rate of e-cigarette use among adolescents exceeds that of adults. In the WHO European Region, 20% of 15-year-olds surveyed reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Despite significant progress in reducing tobacco use, the emergence of e-cigarettes and other new tobacco and nicotine products presents a grave threat to youth and tobacco control. Studies show that e-cigarette use increases conventional cigarette use, particularly among non-smoking youth, by nearly three times.

"History is repeating, as the tobacco industry tries to sell the same nicotine to our children in different packaging,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “These industries are actively targeting schools, children, and young people with new products that are essentially a candy-flavored trap. How can they talk about harm reduction when they are marketing these dangerous, highly-addictive products to children?”

The report highlights that these industries continue to market their products to young people with enticing flavors like candy and fruit. Research in the United States found that more than 70% of youth e-cigarette users would quit if the products were only available in tobacco flavor.

"These industries are intentionally designing products and utilizing marketing strategies that appeal directly to children," said Dr. Ruediger Krech, WHO Director of Health Promotion. "The use of child-friendly flavors like cotton candy and bubblegum, combined with sleek and colorful designs that resemble toys, is a blatant attempt to addict young people to these harmful products."

These deceptive tactics underscore the urgent need for strong regulations to protect young people from a lifetime of harmful dependence. WHO urges governments to protect young people from the uptake of tobacco, e-cigarettes, and other nicotine products by banning or tightly regulating these products. WHO recommendations include creating 100% smoke-free indoor public places, banning flavored e-cigarettes, implementing bans on marketing, advertising, and promotion, raising taxes, increasing public awareness of the deceptive tactics used by the industry, and supporting youth-led education and awareness initiatives.

“Addicted youth represent a lifetime of profits to the industry,” said Jorge Alday, Director of STOP at Vital Strategies. “That’s why the industry aggressively lobbies to create an environment that makes it cheap, attractive, and easy for youth to get hooked. If policymakers don’t act, current and future generations may face a new wave of harms characterized by addiction to and use of many tobacco and nicotine products, including cigarettes.”

Youth advocates worldwide are taking a stand against the tobacco and nicotine industry’s destructive influence and manipulative marketing. They are exposing these deceptive practices and advocating for their own tobacco-free future. Youth organizations from around the world participated in the latest session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (COP10) to deliver a powerful message to policymakers: “Future generations will remember you as the ones who protected them or the ones who failed them and put them in danger.”

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