According to a recent study published in the The Lancet smoking killed 7.69 million people globally in 2019, while the number of smokers rose to 1.14 billion as the habit was picked up by young people around the globe. It was also the leading risk factor for death among males (over 20% of male deaths). Another worrisome finding is that 89% of new smokers are addicted by the age of 25, thanks to the continuous nefarious tactics of Big Tobacco, which is working round the clock to addict a new generation of customers.
While all tobacco users must be encouraged to 'Commit to Quit'- which is also the theme of 2021 World No Tobacco Day - governments also need to focus on reducing the uptake of tobacco use among young people, said the authors of The Lancet study "call on all countries to urgently adopt and enforce a comprehensive package of evidence-based policies to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use and prevent initiation, particularly among adolescents and young adults".
The tobacco industry finds ways and means to turn every effort that is designed to reduce the power of its fatal tentacles into an opportunity to sharpen them. It is trying to sabotage life-saving public health cessation measures by misleading the public about what constitutes cessation strategies by promoting their so called 'reduced-risk nicotine products', like electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products as cessation tools.
Over the last decade, it has promoted e-cigarettes as cessation aids under the guise of contributing to global tobacco control, even though switching from conventional tobacco products to e-cigarettes is not quitting. According to a study "one-in-five teenagers have used e-cigarettes and 16% of them had never tried cigarettes before." E-cigarettes are not a gateway to re-normalise the act of smoking just as it was becoming de-normalised, but are potentially harmful products. Researchers says that people who use e-cigarettes have a high rate of visual impairment. Findings of another study link the use of e-cigarettes with wheezing and shortness of breath in young adults. Yet another study says that people who use e-cigarettes have a high rate of visual impairment.
"We must be guided by science and evidence, not the marketing campaigns of the tobacco industry - the same industry that has engaged in decades of lies and deceit to sell products that have killed hundreds of millions of people. E-cigarettes generate toxic chemicals, which have been linked to harmful health effects such as cardiovascular disease and lung disorders", says WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The tobacco industry has even exploited the still raging Covid-19 pandemic and unashamedly tapped it as an opportunity to advance its own interests. Strategies used by Big Tobacco to reverse the harm caused to their sales by the pandemic lockdowns include
- marketing of newer products (such as IQOS) that are even more profitable than cigarettes and more amenable to online marketing. In many countries special offers were made for their home delivery, along with masks and hand sanitisers;
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