WHO: Tobacco industry wants to turn children into lifelong addicts

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the tobacco industry is trying all kinds of tricks to get children hooked as young as possible. This includes marketing e-cigarettes in bright colors almost like toys, the WHO reported in Geneva on Thursday.

(Iconic image: Unsplash.com)

The situation in Europe is particularly worrying, said the responsible WHO department head Rüdiger Krech in Geneva on Thursday. Sales restrictions are of little use if young people can order the products online and the authorities do not put a stop to it.

According to the WHO, it is estimated that around 37 million teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 already consume tobacco. This includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco and snuff. There are also millions more who use e-cigarettes. Although they do not contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine and are therefore addictive. Because e-cigarettes are sometimes expensive, many young people switch to tobacco products when they run out of money. In the WHO European Region, 20 percent of 13 to 15-year-olds now say they have used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Among the 16,000 flavors are those such as "chewing gum" and "candy", which are clearly aimed at children. "History is repeating itself: the tobacco industry is trying to sell our children the same nicotine in different packaging," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

WHO denounces advertising

According to the WHO, the fact that tobacco companies advertise their e-cigarettes as a product to help people quit tobacco is just a pretext. "How can they talk about harm reduction when they are courting children with these dangerous, highly addictive products?" said Tedros.

The WHO denounces advertising in children's colors and with cartoon characters. Influencers are also being recruited to promote dangerous products to their followers as "cool" in return for payment. "The industry wants to get children hooked as young as possible so that they become lifelong consumers," said Given Kapolyo, who organizes young people in Zambia to educate their own youth groups about harmful nicotine consumption.

The WHO is urging countries to place greater restrictions on the use of tobacco and other nicotine products. This includes a ban on e-cigarettes with different flavors, advertising bans, higher taxes and 100% indoor smoking bans. (SDA)

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