WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY: “Protecting children from the impacts of the tobacco industry”

Every year, National Non-smoking Week takes place from May 25 to 31 in Vietnam. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) chose the message "Protecting children from the impacts of the tobacco industry" as the theme for World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) chose the message "Protecting children from the impacts of the tobacco industry" as the theme for World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

WHO emphasized that World No Tobacco Day 2024 is a forum for young people around the world to demand that the tobacco industry stop targeting them with products harmful to their health, and called on governments to impose restrictions on their health. Use policies that protect children from behaviors that entice tobacco use, including the relentless marketing of health-threatening products through social media and digital platforms.

Nowadays, although there are strict management regulations on advertising and selling e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, there has been rarely any result in preventing young people from using these products. According to preliminary results of the study "The current situation of using electronic cigarettes and heated cigarettes among students in 11 provinces and cities in Vietnam in 2023", the proportion of students from grades 6 to 12 currently using E-cigarette in 2023 is 7.0% 1 . The rate of e-cigarette use among students in the 13-17 age group increased from 2.6% in 2019 to 8.1% in 2023. Among the 13-15 year old group, the rate has more than doubled from 3. 5% in 2022, up to 8% in 2023. Particularly among female students aged 11-18 years old, the rate of e-cigarette use is 4.3% 2.3. Thus, in just 3 years, the rate of e-cigarette use among students has increased significantly. This shows that the achievements Vietnam has made in reducing the rate of regular cigarette use over the past 10 years are at risk of being undone by the increased use of e-cigarettes targeting young people.

Image 1: Students smoking at school (Source: Tuoi Tre Magazine)

Nicotine contained in tobacco products is highly addictive, causing great harm to the brain development of adolescents, because children's brains are still in the developing stage until age 25. Nicotine has been shown to cause impairs the brain maturation of adolescents with serious short-term and long-term consequences such as addiction, cognitive and emotional disorders, reduced learning ability and psychosis. Changes caused by nicotine in the nervous system make users in this age group more susceptible to nicotine addiction and therefore health effects will come sooner and be more severe in the future4

Many studies show that tobacco companies are actively using communication channels, with social networking channels being emphasized to reach users of all ages to have new smokers,  especially aimed at young people. 150 million young people, including 16 million children under 18 years old, have had access to tobacco advertising information on social networks 5 . According to Dr. Dinh Thi Hai Yen, Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control (HCDC), cigarette manufacturing companies have spent huge amounts of money on research, from designing products that appeal to young people. to advertising and marketing campaigns to attract them. In particular, the results from the Ministry of Health's 2022 survey of tobacco use among adolescents (among 13-15 year olds) show that internet is the place where the highest proportion of students buy e-cigarettes ( accounting for 22.1%); The most popular e-cigarette advertising channel is also social media6 . According to statistics from the University of Public Health, tobacco companies planto use famous people (KOLs) to advertise, post product photos, and articles on social networks.