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Global Progress on The Fight Against Tobacco Thereatened

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Viewpoint by Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

WASHINGTON, D.C. (IDN) — In 2020, 3.6 million kids in the United States used electronic cigarettes, including 1 in 5 high school students. A growing percentage of them did so frequently or daily, a sure sign of addiction.

With 83% of youth e-cigarette users using flavored products, the evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have driven this epidemic.

These alarming statistics are why the World Health Organization (WHO) singled out the problem in the United States as an example to the rest of the world about the need to rigorously regulate e-cigarettes in its latest Global Tobacco Control Report.

This bi-annual report provides an overview of the progress made by countries in implementing effective tobacco control policies around the world since 2008. While the report finds that countries have made significant progress in the fight against the tobacco epidemic, it warns that this progress is being threatened as many countries are failing to effectively regulate e-cigarettes and new tobacco products.

The problem is only growing as Big Tobacco companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco continue to introduce new addictive and harmful flavored products into global markets.

The WHO found that there are approximately 16,000 unique e-cigarette flavors available in some markets, and that this is a major concern because flavors appeal to children.

Studies in the United States show that flavors play a major role in e-cigarette use amongst children and adolescents. There is growing evidence of the harmful effects of e-cigarettes, including on cardiovascular and respiratory health, on brain development of adolescents, and among smokers who engage in dual use or who delay overall quitting.

Moreover, the Report found that children and adolescents who use e-cigarettes are more than twice as likely to use conventional cigarettes in the future. Big Tobacco knows that the only way it will remain in business is by addicting a new generation to its toxic products.

This is no accident, as the WHO report finds that tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) companies use product designs and marketing strategies that appeal to young people, including the use of thousands of attractive flavors and social media influencers to addict the next generation of tobacco users.

According to the new report, 32 countries have banned the sale of ENDS, covering 2.4 billion people. Another 79 have implemented partial measures to regulate the products, covering 3.2 billion people. The progress cannot stop here. More countries must effectively regulate e-cigarettes and heated cigarettes to ensure that these products do not fuel the next generation of tobacco users.

 These high rates of youth e-cigarette use underscore the fact that as long as flavored e-cigarettes remain on the market, kids will get their hands on them and the epidemic will continue unabated. The United States, as it considers applications from e-cigarette makers to keep their products on the market, has the opportunity to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes – an opportunity the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cannot miss.

As the world continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been more critical for governments to adopt effective tobacco control policies, as mounting evidence suggests that tobacco users have a significantly higher chance of developing severe COVID-19 complications compared to non-smokers. The WHO report notes that tobacco companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco have exploited the global pandemic to aggressively market tobacco and nicotine products to young people around the world.

To continue the life-saving progress documented in the WHO report, it is imperative that countries fully implement the proven tobacco control solutions called for by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the world’s first public health treaty signed by 181 countries. Without urgent action, the tobacco industry will continue to find ways to attract new generations and renormalize tobacco use. [IDN-InDepthNews — 30 July 2021]

Image: Screenshot from ‘Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids’.





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