World No Tobacco Day, hosted on May 31st each year, is a period of encouragement to abstain from tobacco use for 24 hours time. Tobacco use is very prevalent around the world and causes negative health issues. According to the World Health Organization, at least 6 million people die annually from tobacco use and more than 600,000 people die annually from secondhand smoke exposure.
How does the tobacco industry get all these customers to hurt and damage?
According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, tobacco companies spent approximately $9.6 billion in the United States alone to market their products to youth. The amount that tobacco companies will be spending on advertising to youth is still on the rise and influencing more and more youth. The Do Something campaign says that almost 3,900 teens in the United States, youth under the age of eighteen, will try their first cigarette every day. The tobacco companies try to target youth to develop their next generation of active smokers.
Tobacco use has been a major issue for teens, and therefore, teens must be active leaders in the teen tobacco prevention movement. Youth are a major group that participate in this big effort to control tobacco. Youth provide direct insight to the problems in their own community.
At Youth Empowered Solutions, we understand that tobacco use has become an issue for teens. With an adult and youth alliance, we help youth voice their concerns in order to create community changes. It is critical that the youth voices are encouraged as much as adults, especially if the problem directly affects them. And that is why I became a teen advocate for this issue. I wanted to be the voice of the unheard teens and help speak out about the tobacco companies who are marketing to us.
By actively engaging youth, norms and policies can be changed. Youth voice a concern for the tobacco problem in their community by addressing the issue. In North Carolina, we have visited every legislative elected official to help gain support for tobacco prevention. We know that prevention works.
Nationally, there are many ways that people can help with the fight to spread tobacco awareness. You could go to http://ctfk.salsalabs.com/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=650 and sign the campaign to petition for President Obama to regulate e-cigarettes and cigars.
Also lobbying for bills that pertain to tobacco prevention funding, regulation and changing of policies is always helpful. Another opportunity is to support No Menthol Sunday. This is being celebrated on World No Tobacco Day 2015. Recruit communities of faith to register athttp://www.naatpn.org/#!nomentholsunday/cgz8 and get free resources so that we can push back on the tobacco industry’s practice of flavoring tobacco products to be more attractive to youth.