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World No Tobacco Day looks to inform public on the dangers of using tobacco

Tobacco companies announce initiatives and ask for government help to reduce smoking.
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WHO World No Tobacco Day
Photo: World Health Organization

The annual World No Tobacco Day has tobacco companies touting their initiatives to curb smoking amongst people and asking for more government support to build on initiatives to end smoking amongst young people.

World No Tobacco Day was created in 1987 by the member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring attention to the dangers of tobacco use and the preventable death and illnesses caused by its use. In 1987, the World Health Assembly passed Resolution WHA40.38, calling for 7 April 1988 to be a "a world no-smoking day." In 1988, Resolution WHA42.19 was passed, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on 31 May.

According to Public Heath Ontario, the WHO’s Hooking the Generation, shows that globally an estimated 37 million children aged 13–15 years use tobacco and the rate of e-cigarette use among adolescents exceeds that of adults, in many countries. 

In 2023, an Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey found that 19% of students in grades 7 to 12 in Ontario had used a vaping device, while 6.6% had reported using a tobacco cigarette in the past year.

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“The use of any tobacco or nicotine product is unsafe, especially for youth,” Public Health Ontario says. “Tobacco products and vaping devices contain nicotine, which is an addictive drug that can harm brain development. Youth are particularly vulnerable as their brains continue developing up to age 25.”

In its commitment to reducing smoking in Canada, Imperial Tobacco Canada (ITCAN) is calling for a renewed partnership between industry, governments, and public health to look beyond outdated views of tobacco control.

“ITCAN supports Health Canada’s objective of reducing smoking incidence to below five percent by 2035 and to build a smokeless Canada,” says Frank Silva, president and CEO, Imperial Tobacco Canada. “We agree that cigarettes are the cause of real and serious health problems. We agree that kids should not use any tobacco or nicotine products. We also agree that if you are a smoker, you deserve access to a range of reduced risks product that could help you quit smoking.”

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According to ITCAN, it and its parent company, BAT, have \invested in research and development on reduced harm products. The company’s goal is to accelerate this work.

“The reality is that we, a tobacco and nicotine company, are now leading innovation in reducing the harm caused by cigarettes,” says Silva. “Never before has there been so many options for smokers. We have the opportunity to dramatically reduce smoking rates in Canada.”

“This transformation will only occur if we remain receptive to innovative approaches and acknowledge that the tobacco industry can also play a part,” Silva continues. “We are doing everything we can to create a smokeless world. We ask that governments and public health organizations take a good long look at their objectives and ask themselves what they have to lose by meeting with us to discuss solutions that will make possible the realization of this goal.”

Philip Morris International (PMI) says that this World No Tobacco Day it is continuing to build on its commitment made in September of last year to become a more than two-thirds majority smoke-free company by 2030.

At its 2023 Investor Day Jacek Olczak, chief executive officer for PMI told investors that “We have made significant and unparalleled progress on our smoke-free transformation, developing a more sustainable growth model while making important contributions to tobacco harm reduction, as more adult smokers switch to our smoke-free products and leave cigarettes behind.” 

“By 2030, our ambition is to be a substantially smoke-free company, with over two-thirds of our total net revenues coming from smoke-free products. We see a realistic path to becoming a smoke-free company over time, and this will be achieved market-by-market—as we are already demonstrating today.”

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