Global youths challenge governments to protect them from the tobacco industry

Bangkok, 4 March 2024: Young people from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Oceania made themselves heard throughout the Tenth Session of the Conference of Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that recently concluded in Panama. Calling on governments to represent their best interests, the youth delegates urged Parties to fully protect their generation from the harms of tobacco products and to actively engage and collaborate with them towards creating a tobacco-free world. 

“Throughout this week, youths worldwide will be watching, and future generations will remember you for being the one who protected them or for being the one who failed them and put them in danger,” they said at the COP10 opening plenary session.

Youth representatives delivering their statement at COP10. Photo by WHO FCTC Secretariat.

At the end of the weeklong COP10, Parties made historic decisions to advance tobacco control and protect people and the planet from tobacco harms, affirming the role of tobacco control in human rights and the need to protect from the serious environmental harms of the tobacco supply chain. Parties also adopted additional guidelines to assist Parties implement a comprehensive ban on cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, including digital media, and reiterated the need to hold the tobacco industry liable for the health, economic, social, and environmental harms that it has caused.

The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) welcomed the policy wins from COP10, but cautioned that comprehensive tobacco control policies need to be protected from tobacco industry interference, echoing the COP10 Panama Declaration, which highlighted the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the tobacco industry and those of public health. 

COP10 also established an Expert Group to identify forward-looking measures that go beyond the minimum obligations of the treaty to help Parties move more quickly to end the tobacco pandemic. In this regard, SEATCA encourages Parties to implement a Generational End Game policy to vaccinate youths against the tobacco pandemic by prohibiting sales to anyone born after a certain date. A generational endgame policy should cover all tobacco and nicotine products, such as electronic smoking devices (ESD) and nicotine pouches, to fully protect the youth from health harms. 

SEATCA also urges Parties to ban or strictly regulate ESDs and to address the misinformation proliferating about these products, so as to prevent initiation by youths, who are targeted by the tobacco industry with thousands of enticing flavors and misleading advertising. ESDs are harmful and unproven as quit smoking aids; instead, most smokers, who used ESDs for cessation, ended up as dual users of both ESDs and conventional cigarettes. 

“SEATCA stands united with youth and other health advocates in calling on governments to prioritize the health and well-being of present and future generations over the vested and commercial interests of the tobacco industry,” SEATCA Executive Director Dr Ulysses Dorotheo said. 

“Governments have a duty to help current tobacco users to completely end their dependence on tobacco products, rather than replace one harmful product with another. Do not be fooled. Tobacco industry interference remains the biggest obstacle to tobacco control progress,” he added. 

WHO recently urged Parties to step up efforts to regulate ESDs. It called upon the South East Asia Region in particular, as the region still has the highest number of people using tobacco products: 411 million people using tobacco and 280 million people using smokeless tobacco products. There is an increasing trend of ESD use in the region, particularly among young people, and Parties must strictly enforce policies to ensure that everyone is protected from the harms of ESDs. 


Contact Information: 

Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Manager, SEATCA 
Email: val@seatca.org
Mobile: +63917312460

About SEATCA

SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.

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