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Protecting Children from the Influence of Tobacco: World No Tobacco Day

World No Tobacco Day is an annual event observed on May 31st to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and advocate for policies to reduce its consumption. This year, the theme ‘Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference’ highlights the critical need to safeguard young individuals from the manipulative tactics of the tobacco industry, in which the children and adolescents are used for tobacco and other psychoactive substance trafficking and other criminal activities.

The Influence of Tobacco Industry on Children

1. Product Placement: Tobacco products often feature prominently in movies, television shows, and social media, normalizing smoking behavior and making it seem appealing to impressionable audiences, including children.

2. Flavored Tobacco Products: The introduction of flavored tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes and flavored cigarettes, targets young users by masking the harsh taste of tobacco. These products contribute to nicotine addiction among youth, leading to severe long-term health consequences.

3. Targeting Vulnerable Communities: The tobacco industry strategically targets vulnerable communities, including low-income neighborhood’s, minority groups, and developing countries.

Impact on Children’s Health

1. Tobacco Use Disorder: Early exposure to nicotine significantly increases the risk of addiction and dependency, leading to persistent struggles with tobacco use and associated health risks throughout life.

2. Respiratory Disorders: Children exposed to second-hand smoke or those who become smokers are at heightened risk of developing respiratory disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, and frequent respiratory infections.

3. Cognitive and Behavioral Effects: Nicotine exposure during adolescence can disrupt brain development, impacting cognitive functions, impulse control, and mental health outcomes in the long term. Long term nicotine exposure can cause serious mental issues like Depression, Bipolar Affective Disorder, Psychotic disorder in children and adolescents.

4. Long-Term Health Consequences: Tobacco initiation during childhood or adolescence substantially elevates the likelihood of developing smoking-related diseases later in life, including lung cancer, Oral cancers, heart disease, and various respiratory conditions.

Strategies to Protect Children

Educate children, parents, educators, and healthcare providers about the dangers of tobacco use and the importance of maintaining smoke-free environments. Empower young individuals to resist peer pressure, media influences, and tobacco marketing.

As we observe World No Tobacco Day with the theme ‘Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference,’ let us prioritize the health and well-being of our youth by taking decisive actions to counteract the harmful influences of the tobacco industry. By working together to educate, empower, and protect children, we can build a tobacco-free future and ensure a healthier world for generations to come.

Summary: World No Tobacco Day 2024 focuses on ‘Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference.’ Tobacco firms use marketing and flavored products to target youth, fostering addiction and health risks. Advocating strict regulations, education, smoke-free areas, and empowering youth are vital steps to safeguard children’s health and combat the tobacco industry’s influence.

Dr. Sreelekshmi S.
Junior Consultant Psychiatry
SUT Hospital, Pattom