The World Health Organization (WHO) released two important publications just in time for the back-to-school season in many countries. These publications aim to protect children’s health from the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine products.
The tobacco industry often targets young people, leading to an increase in e-cigarette use, and most smokers start before they turn 18. Some products, like single-use cigarettes and e-cigarettes, are cheaper and lack health warnings, making them more accessible to young people.
In the US, regulators recently warned companies to stop selling e-cigarettes that appeal to youth by resembling school supplies or featuring cartoon characters.
Dr. Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO, emphasized the need to protect young people from second-hand smoke and harmful e-cigarette emissions, as well as advertisements promoting these products.
To address this issue, WHO released two resources: a guide for schools called “Freedom from Tobacco and Nicotine” and a “Nicotine- and Tobacco-Free School Toolkit.” These tools provide step-by-step instructions for schools to create environments free from nicotine and tobacco. It’s a comprehensive approach involving teachers, staff, students, and parents.
The guide and toolkit cover topics such as supporting students to quit, educational campaigns, policy implementation, and enforcement. They highlight four key ways to establish a nicotine- and tobacco-free environment:
1. Banning nicotine and tobacco products on school campuses.
2. Prohibiting the sale of these products near schools.
3. Banning ads and promotions for nicotine and tobacco products near schools.
4. Refusing sponsorship or engagement with the tobacco and nicotine industries
The publication also recognizes countries that have successfully implemented these policies, including India, Indonesia, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine.
Creating nicotine- and tobacco-free schools has several benefits, such as preventing young people from starting to smoke, promoting a healthier student body, protecting youth from second-hand smoke, reducing litter, and cutting cleaning costs.
WHO encourages all countries to make indoor public places completely smoke-free in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to safeguard people’s health.
Simha Asuquo contributes from Lagos, Nigeria