Saturday, July 26, 2008


Kathy Staats and Morgan Wittman, two U.S. college students, are a breath of fresh air -- literally. The two students-- bright, articulate, hopeful, committed-- presented Friday's final panel on youth advocacy, ending a whirlwind week. Participants listened to the women outline how U.S. youth get involved in the movement as students. Then, they are groomed to become effective activists. When asked how many countries had similar efforts, only four hands shot up. A starting point.

Around the globe, public health officials know the battle ahead lies with the youth. Even in the U.S., where smoking by teenagers fell sharply between 1997 and 2003, these gains are leveling off. And in some countries, smoking among youth is soaring. This is the movement's new battleground. "I am charged up about this," says Niki Shrestha M.D., junior public health professional, Tobacco Free Initiative, WHO's South-East Asia Regional Office, in New Delhi. "The young people are the future."


Widyastuti Soerojo, Msc
Chief, Tobacco Control Support Center
Indonesian Public Health Association
Jakarta, Indonesia

"I am from Indonesia. We are the only country in Asia that did not sign the FCTC. So we are behind other Asian countries. Now, two of three males are smokers-- about 66%. That is very high. Smoking prevalence in females is up from 1.3% in 2001 to 4.5% in 2005."

"In reference to youth, what is striking is not only the prevalence of smoking in the young people, but the increase of smoking initiation (when people start smoking). For those under 19-years-old, that rate increased from 64% in 1995 to 68.8% in 2001 to 78.2% in 2004. This information comes from the National Socioeconomic Survey, so it is very reliable."

"We don't have any laws to control tobacco products. Secondly, because we don't have laws, there is almost no regulation. Third, the population is increasing. Together, these factors are attracting industry to Indonesia. They are aggressively marketing. They are stimulating competition to become the market leader. The most effective thing we can do is have policies. So we are focusing on laws. But we haven't been able to get our bills into the national legislative agenda. We are trying, but it is very difficult."


Ram Vashist
Head of Public Health
Government of Delhi
New Delhi, India

"Tobacco use among young people is a major concern in India. We are seeing more and more young people becoming addicted to tobacco. And they are using many diverse products. They are chewing tobacco in the form of many smokeless products as well as smoking bidis (an indigenous, leaf-rolled unfiltered cigarette which uses coarse tobacco) and cigarettes. On the whole, we are seeing the number of people using non-smoking tobacco products increasing and this is fast emerging as a bigger problem."

"Chewing tobacco and smoking bidis is more popular among the lower socio-economic group, whereas, people of higher socio-economic strata smoke cigarettes but may also consumer high-end smokeless tobacco products. Beedis are widely available locally and are very cheap. For example, a young person can buy almost 400 beedis for about $1."

"Numerous studies have found that smoking or chewing tobacco among youth is on the rise. There is evidence that sales of products is growing. We also have tobacco companies marketing pouches of smokeless tobacco in smaller pouches. The price is about 1/80th of a $1."

"To address this challenge, we have to make young people aware of the ill-effects of chewing tobacco and smoking. Secondly, we have a ban on the sale of tobacco to minors, but we have to enforce this ban stringently. Thirdly, we have to run educational programs targeting the youth. And fourthly, we have to bring them under the fold of tobacco cessation programs. But it is a gigantic task... it's a big job."


Randa Mostafa Abou El Naga, M.D.
National Program Officer
Global Tobacco Control Survey
World Health Office
Alexandria, Egypt

"In Egypt, we do not have a national study to tell to us incidence of tobacco prevalence. That's why we were among the countries selected by the Bloomberg Initiative to conduct a GATS survey. We have a few studies that show us prevalence is about 34% of adult males and roughly 10% of adult females, but there are no reliable national numbers."

"The most traumatic issue now: The youth are starting to the smoke, and the age of smoking initiation is dropping. They are smoking cigarettes, but, in Egypt, we have the growing problem of the water pipe, or Shisha. This used to be the way old men smoked in Egypt. But now it is used as social gathering in the cafes among young people, and it is growing in popularity every day."

"We are doing everything we can. We have legislation. We have a ban on smoking in public places. We have taxation. And we are putting information about the bad consequences in the school curriculum. We hope these measures will help. We are doing excellently, but now we need the enforcement. That is what we will be working on in Egypt. We still see the age of initiation dropping. We have children as young as 10-years and 11-years-old starting to smoke."

Vladimir Polonets
Social Marketing Expert
Kiev National Economic University
Kiev, Ukraine

"I am an expert at social marketing and I teach at the university. I am attending this conference because of my own interest, and because of what is happening in Ukraine. What is happening is terrible. For example, you can't go to restaurants because people everywhere are smoking. You can't walk along the streets because everywhere people are smoking."

"Young people are smoking in Ukraine. For example, in one 2005 study, of people who are 15-years-old to 29-years-old, 68% of the men reported smoking at least once a day and 30% of women reported smoking daily. So I started a two-week training course in the spirit of social marketing at Kiev National Economic University. The students of this course had to develop social marketing projects with the aim of reducing tobacco consumption."

"My aim is to develop a tobacco control campaign among the students, because I am a teacher at the university and I work there everyday. I can spread this idea among them. I want to make activities among students to promote healthier lifestyles."

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