In a bid to make school campuses nicotine and tobacco-free, the World Health Organization (WHO) on 26 September 2023, released an eight-step guide and a toolkit for schools.
WHO pointed out that the tobacco industry is relentlessly targeting the youth with advertising tactics and a new portfolio of products such as single-stick cigarettes and e-cigarettes in thousands of flavours and appealing designs. It also stated that nicotine and tobacco use on school campuses’ normalizes unhealthy behaviour, exposes non-users to the harms of second-hand smoke and e-cigarette emissions, and fails to encourage the users to quit smoking.’
It also pointed out that such products have now become more affordable, palatable and easier to access without any health warnings. The single-stick cigarettes and disposable e-cigarettes are marketed in sweet and fruity flavours that are being sold near schools, online and in vending machines without proper age verification.
In its report, WHO stated that in over 50 countries worldwide, nine out of 10 smokers start smoking by the age of 18 years and 10% of the students aged 13-15 even reported that they were offered a free cigarette by a tobacco company representative.
“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, World Health Organization.
The new guide and toolkit includes manuals for school administrators, teachers and parents to help the users quit and implement a nicotine and tobacco-free school policy.
WHO’s guide to banning nicotine, tobacco product use on campus
- Step 1: Develop a nicotine and tobacco-free school policy
- Step 2: Assess the available resources for policy implementation
- Step 3: Train students, teachers and administrative staff in policy implementation
- Step 4: Create a nicotine and tobacco-free school environment and communicate about the new policy
- Step 5: Launch the nicotine and tobacco-free school policy and organize an awareness campaign
- Step 6: Enforce the nicotine and tobacco-free school policy
- Step 7: Provide brief cessation interventions
- Step 8: Monitor and evaluate the implementation of the nicotine-free and tobacco-free school policy
According to the WHO, tobacco smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals of which at least 70 are known to cause cancer. And vaping not only strengthens nicotine addiction but also comes with the risk of the device leaking or children swallowing the liquid in e-cigarettes. Smoking can increase the risk of several cancers including bladder and kidney cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke, gum diseases and fertility problems.
Several countries are mulling a ban on disposable e-cigarettes due to the health risks they pose and their increasing popularity among the youth, especially teens.
E-cigarettes in India were banned in 2019. In the US last month, regulators warned companies to stop selling e-cigarettes that are appealing to youth by resembling cartoon characters, school supplies or even teddy bears. Earlier this year Australia announced a sweeping crackdown on vaping, including a ban on single-use disposable e-cigarettes and halting imports of non-prescription versions along with restricting the nicotine content in e-cigarettes. Francois Braun, France’s Health Minister, in May, said that the French government may ban disposable e-cigarettes, popular among teenagers, by the end of the year.
The WHO listed India, Indonesia, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine as a few countries that have successfully implemented policies to make campuses tobacco and nicotine-free.
While pointing out that tobacco use among the youth increases the risk of reduced lung function and early onset of chronic respiratory diseases, WHO has released an eight-step guide and a toolkit to make school campuses tobacco and nicotine-free.
Several tobacco and nicotine products have today become popular among the youth, especially teens, due to the product’s affordability and availability in thousands of appealing flavours and designs.