Maria Carmona, Director of International Research, Tobacco-Free Kids
Transcript has been lightly edited for clarity
This year’s World No Tobacco Day theme is, “commit to quit.” When I think of that theme, I cannot help but think of the tobacco industry executive who in 1984 laid out the rationale for targeting young people as “replacement smokers” for people who quit, or more likely die from a tobacco-related disease. The work of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is important because it demonstrates and documents just how critical young people are to the tobacco industry. While smoking rates have been coming down in recent years, smoking rates among young men in most countries exceeds 20% and that’s much too high. Smoking rates among young women are increasing in many countries. Why is this happening? Tobacco industry marketing. The only difference now compared to decades ago is that those replacement smokers, those young people, they’re in low- and middle-income countries. In too many countries, children can’t go to and from school without being bombarded by tobacco ads. And if they have access to the internet, they will see tobacco advertising online. And if they’re not careful, they will be subjected to tobacco industry marketing in their social media feeds. With everything we’ve been through in the past year plus of the coronavirus pandemic, now there’s never been a better time or reasons for protecting the most vulnerable in our society. Smoking causes NCDs. NCDs elevate risk for severe COVID-19 disease and COVID death. Raising taxes on tobacco products to reduce their affordability is the most effective way to prevent smoking among young people. And for those smokers who commit to quit, they’ll have some help too.