WHO Issues New Advice to Schools on Tobacco- and Nicotine-Free Campuses
In Ireland, students launched a campaign entitled ‘Not around us’ to promote smoke-free environments in schools.

WHO has stepped up its counteroffensive against tobacco companies that market cigarettes and other tobacco products to teens – with the release of a new set of guidance for school-based anti-smoking policies. 

The guidance, “Freedom from Tobacco and Nicotine: Guide for Schools,” and “Nicotine- and Tobacco-free School Implementation Toolkit”, aims to support school policies banning smoking, vaping and other forms of tobacco use. 

Nearly nine out of 10 smokers begin the habit by the age of 18 – meaning that schools need to be on the frontlines of tobacco control efforts aimed at the next generation. 

“Whether sitting in class, playing games outside or waiting at the school bus stop, we must protect young people from deadly second-hand smoke and toxic e-cigarette emissions as well as ads promoting these products,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion, WHO in a press release describe the new school guidance.

Tobacco epidemic a key concern for youths

The dark shaded areas represent the proportional risk of tobacco use as a factor in key noncommunicable diseases, including heart disease (IHD), stroke, lung disease, cancers (lung, lip, stomach, colorectal) and diabetes.

About 1.8 billion people, or nearly 25% of the world’s population, are between the ages of 18-24.  And more than 80% of these young people live in developing countries, many of which lack strict regulations on tobacco advertising and marketing.  

But the problem of youth-focused marketing of tobacco products extends across nations at all levels of development – as the marketing of vape sticks, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products has shifted to a flourishing online trade. The multi-billion-dollar tobacco industry also has been increasingly active marketing nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, that resemble youth-appealing characters, school suppliers, toys, and drinks, WHO notes. 

Globally, tobacco is one of the largest risks to health, and for the development noncommunicable diseases; as a result tobacco kills about 8 million people across the globe every year – or more than one person every four seconds. 

“Keeping schools tobacco and nicotine free can help prevent this,” said the WHO in a Twitter post announcing the new guidance, issued just this week.

What’s in the guide? 

Example of a school-based arts and craft project In Krygyzstan promoting anit-tobacco education.

The guide and toolkit offer a step-by-step manual towards creating nicotine- and tobacco-free school campuses by offering advice on policy design; implementation and enforcement; education and awareness-raising campaigns; and smoking cessation programmes. The toolkit and guide highlight four key strategies for schools to adopt and promote: 

  • Banning nicotine and tobacco products on school campuses;
  • Prohibiting the sale and/or distribution of nicotine and tobacco products in school neighborhoods;
  • Banning direct and indirect ads and promotion of nicotine and tobacco products in school neighborhoods; 
  • Refusing offers of sponsorship or engagement with tobacco and nicotine industries. 

The tools and guidance were developed and tested in collaboration with countries that have successfully implemented tobacco and nicotine-free campus policies. Those include: India, Indonesia, Ireland, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine. 

Samples of nicotine and tobacco-free signage to promote non-smoking school environments.

Release coincides with USD Food and Drug Administration’s warning to online retailers 

Nicotine and tobacco-free campus policies also support healthier lifestyles and waste management, reducing cigarette litter and protecting non-smoking youth from toxic chemicals in second-hand smoke, WHO said. 

The release of the WHO publications coincides with a stiff warning issued recently by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to 15 online retailers for selling and/or distributing tobacco products that are specifically packaged to appeal to young people. 

“The design of these products is a shamelessly egregious attempt to target kids,” states Brian King, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, in the notice, issued August 15.

Image Credits: WHO , Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), WHO, WHO/Nicotine and Tobacco Free Schools.

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