Quoting details from ‘secret’ papers, Professor Gerard Dubois, Head of the Department of Public Health at the State University of Amiens in France, while addressing a seminar for journalists in Dubai on Tuesday, said the main target of the tobacco companies were youth aged between 14-24.
According to the ‘secret’ papers belonging to a well reputed international tobacco company, the youth were termed as a potential market since they were good "learners".
However, this year, the World Health Organisation will launch the ‘Tobacco Free Youth’ campaign that calls for "a total ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products", to reduce tobacco use by youth.
The campaign will be launched on May 31 when the World No Tobacco Day is observed worldwide.
Prof Dubois is regarded a champion of anti-tobacco initiatives in France and throughout Europe and is also the recent recipient of France’s highest civil and military medal, the 'Legion d’honneur'.
Said Prof Dubois: "On the contrary, a recent report by WHO presents the first comprehensive analysis of global tobacco use and control efforts.
The WHO has also outlined six key strategies that, if enacted by governments, will significantly lower the number of tobacco-related deaths worldwide. In addition to government policy changes, warning people about the dangers of smoking is also critical."
Journalists from across the Middle East gathered for the seminar that discussed how policy changes can greatly help in the fight to curb the smoking epidemic that kills 5.4 million (as per WHO figures) people worldwide every year.
"In the UAE, policies in the pipeline, such as increased taxation on tobacco products and complete ban on smoking in public, are expected to greatly discourage young people from starting smoking and encourage smokers to quit," said Dr Wedad Maidoor, head of the UAE National Committee for Tobacco Control at the Ministry of Health.
According to the WHO’s World Tobacco Atlas, nine per cent of the UAE population and over 18 per cent of men smoke.
While the report states that less than one per cent of women are smokers, that number is thought to be much higher as many smoke in private because it is considered a cultural taboo.
In May 2003, the WHO World Health Assembly unanimously adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, one of the United Nations’ most widely embraced treaties and the world’s first against tobacco. Governments around the globe, including the UAE, have begun to recognise that tobacco use is an addictive epidemic that can and must be stopped.
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