World No Tobacco Day 2024

World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is celebrated on the 31st of May every year since its initiation in 1987 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The purpose is to draw the attention of the world to the tobacco pandemic killing over 8 million people annually. This year, the WNTD theme focuses on “Protecting children from tobacco industry interference” as children are the main target group of the tobacco industry in marketing their products.

Tobacco Industry (TI) needs to recruit new users to ensure their existence and sustenance as a profitable business because tobacco kills half of its consumers prematurely. The case fatality rate of 50% for tobacco smoking makes it a vulnerable business that loses its most loyal customers prematurely. Understandably, tobacco smoking is losing its popularity, hence the tobacco industry is trying out novel strategies and products targeting children to retain their user base and profits, such as given below:

  • Direct and indirect advertising and promotions

Tobacco industry uses colourful, eye-catching images and attractive slogans targeting children to promote their products in different media especially on the web and social media.

  • Advertising at the point of sale

Display of tobacco products glamorously (e.g., at supermarkets) and placement of promotion material at the eye level of children and next to snacks and sweets are some of the strategies to promote the products to children and youth at the point of sale.

  • Wide range of attractive and novel products

Introduction of extra slim, light coloured, low tar and flavoured cigarettes are marketed increasingly including in developing countries. Introduction of various electronic devices and vaping products with different flavours, sustaining, and sometimes initiating, the addiction on nicotine, while disguising them as products that promote quitting smoking, is a marketing strategy used globally.

  • Disguise of products as everyday items

E-cigarettes are designed, produced, and marketed as everyday items such as pens, toys and flash drives. It is difficult for parents and teachers to differentiate those products.

  • Promoting products via models and influencers

Plethora of evidence reveals that tobacco industry hires young models and influencers to promote their products to children and youth.

  • Product placement in movies, teledramas and cartoons

Tobacco industry spends millions of dollars to promote their product via movies, teledramas even cartoons targeting children through what is called product placement.

  • Sponsoring school events

Tobacco industry provides sponsorships for students’ competitions and other sports events to promote their image while promoting their image and/ or products among children.

  • Introducing affordable products

Tobacco industry presents new products to the global market with affordable prices targeting children and young people.

  • Online delivery services and mobile apps

Many websites and mobile apps provide services to order and deliver cigarettes online without appropriate methods for verifying the age.

  • Free distribution of products

Tobacco industry was known to distribute free cigarettes in social settings where children and young people gather such as parties and night functions, which are organised through different social media groups and communities.

It is important to note that use of tobacco at an early age increases the chances of sustained use and future development of addiction. Even when that is not achieved, creating a positive image about tobacco smoking in the mind of the child is a gain for the tobacco industry as such children are more likely to try smoking later in their lives. The positive image may come in the form of tobacco smoking being cool, fashionable, liberal, macho, daring, death-defying, a grown-up thing, or just plain rebellious.