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WHO urging countries to revamp awareness on dangers of tobacco consumption

World-no-tobacco-day poster

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  The World Health Organization (WHO) lists flavours appealing to young people in smokeless tobacco, Shisha and e-cigrattes among the latest tobacco and related industry tactics to attract younger generations. 

They also list advertising and product placement on movies and social media platforms with paid influencers as what governments fighting tobacco use should look out for in curbing the vice.  

Hours before the Global No Tobacco Day which is being celebrated today, WHO is urged countries to revamp awareness of the dangers of tobacco consumption especially in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic with latest studies showing smokers to be at risk of advanced disease. 

In their latest campaign dubbed #TobaccoExposed, The Secret’s Out, the organization is putting out tips through platforms that influencers use aiming at rebuking myths and exposing devious tactics employed by tobacco industries that young people should be able to detect. 

One of the ways through which they are reaching out is through a Tik Tok dance challenge which they are calling upon other social media platforms like Pintrest, Tinder and Youtube to join in to amplify the message.

In Uganda, Dr. Hafsa Lukwata an official at the Ministry of Health says they have already received an advisory from WHO which alerted them to focus on areas where young people are targeted.  

She said that research already tells them 9 of 10 smokers start before the age of 18 and that they are using this to target sellers for prosecution since the Tobacco Control Act stipulates that sale is prohibited to minors and that dealers should establish the age of the person buying a particular product.   

According to her, already Kampala has been selected and offered funding by Global philanthropy Bloomberg Foundation to implement campaigns aimed at stopping smoking with a recent hype of Shisha as being stylish. 

Before the COVID-19 lockdown she said the Ministry together with security operatives had raided bars confiscating some of the tobacco related products.   

she said they are now planning a social media campaign to complement the enforcement efforts now that many young people have resorted to social media with the lockdown restricting their movement and social events.

Lukwata didn’t reveal specific data for the number of young smokers in Uganda but acknowledged that Shisha is popular among this age group with three in ten youth in Kampala reporting to have used it. In terms of percentages, tobacco use prevalence stands at 4.6% for females and 11% for males.   

Globally over 40 million young people aged 13 to 15 have started using tobacco, according to WHO.

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