PROTECTION OF FUTURE GENERATION FROM HARMFUL EFFECTS OF TOBACCO
Author: Jagrati Gupta, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Law School, Banaras Hindu University
In 2018, the Supreme Court ordered the tobacco companies to obey Health Ministry guidelines which made it obligatory to include 85% area of tobacco products package with the graphic health warning. This movie showcases the urgency to curb rampant tobacco consumption all over the world. This year, WHO on ‘World No Tobacco Day’ on 31st May, launched a campaign 'Commit to Quit,' to reflect the gravity of the disaster caused by Covid-19 as tobacco afflicts the immunity and lung function which eventually becomes highly susceptible to this virus. Therefore, as a society, we need to annihilate tobacco addiction chances which in 90% of the cases starts before 18 years of age.
According to a WHO report, around 10% of people under 15 years and 15.5% of age between 15- 24 years consume tobacco all over the world. Hence, by the time they mature, they become helpless victims. More than half of the adolescent smokers try to quit smoking every year with fewer than 20% being able to quit for a month.
The youth constitute an important pillar for any country. We see so many vigilant and inspiring adolescents all over the world who have commendably contributed to developing a better society. Young influencers like Greta Thunberg, Kavya Kopparapu, Rishabh Jain, etc., are some of the examples. Therefore, the young generation possesses huge potential and calibre and so it should be channelized properly. The teenage years are highly susceptible to developing addictive habits as they lack maturity. Thus, we not only need to find the solutions but first, we need to identify the repercussions and causes that lead to teenage tobacco use.
It goes without saying that health faces inevitable loss in tobacco consumption but its quotidian dependence takes a serious toll on finances too. A child who grows up consuming tobacco never learns how to judiciously use money and eventually they might disregard their familial needs over their addiction.
Healthy family life becomes a far-fetched dream if anyone uses tobacco which jeopardizes its peace, in addition to the family’s constant apprehension about the health problems. This anxiety aggravates in the case of an adolescent because not only the possibility of health problems but its implications on the future life also haunts the family.
Evidently, children who grew up in a tobacco addicted household have a higher chance to embrace it. Observing its routine use, children assume that they too are allowed or that it is completely copasetic to use tobacco. Also, the availability of tobacco products in the house also enhances the probability of addiction and mostly with no remonstrance from the elder ones.
According to a trade general Tobacco Reporter an article entitled “Tobacco on the web” observed that the Internet has played a dual role regarding cigarette industry, on one hand, it has provided the cigarette industry with a significant platform to advertise their products to minor children and on the other hand, it has been a medium of many anti-tobacco initiatives. Hence, it would be preposterous to underestimate its significance as the epitome of the contemporary era is its technological evolution and since the youth possesses unique expertise in this arena, they have easy access to all kinds of content. The tobacco or cigarette industry recognizing this fact employs various manoeuvring tactics to attract these amateurs. They advertise these products on popular social media platforms through celebrities, video games are also designed to advertise as they display smoking as “cool” and show how the player acquires energy after
smoking or consuming tobacco and many more. There are around 13 internet tobacco vendors according to the Centre of Media Education. Also, the internet is flooded with cartoons, personalities, language, music, etc., which are popular among the youth.
One of the methodologies harnessed is a phenomenon called “brand recall'', in which the tobacco companies not only sell tobacco products but all sorts of items like noodles, candies, shampoos, etc., including stationery items for children. They conduct school programmes, youth camps (in the guise of spreading awareness about the implications of tobacco use, these companies shrewdly promote the so-called “alternatives” which are allegedly safe to use) and offer scholarships. These activities create a positive image of their brands which deludes adolescents into believing that their tobacco products are also safe to use and hence they succeed in recruiting loyal customers for their whole life.
Pop culture also adds fuel to the fire by showing smoking or drinking in a positive light. Research corroborates this as around 37% of smoking adolescents are encouraged by smoking scenes in movies. Evidently, there would be an 18% decline in teen smoking by implementing an R rating for movies with smoking.
Psychological problems like depression, anxiety, etc., also encourage these amateurs to use tobacco as they see them as relaxing substances. This usually occurs when adolescents are unable to get psychiatric help and hence find solace in the nicotine-based substances.
Inability to refuse or yielding to peer pressure to use tobacco. This usually happens when a teenager is having an identity crisis or is dealing with low self-esteem or has a communication gap with parents.
Though tobacco companies have shrewdly used the internet to advertise, anti-tobacco initiatives can use the same soapbox to communicate its de- addiction. For example, graphic portrayals of emotional messages indicating dangers of tobacco, designing quit smoking programs (like BecomeAnEX.org) provides practical tips to achieve de-addiction, etc. There should be encouragement for the support groups helping de- addiction like Nicotine Anonymous Program. These programs, support groups and rehab- centres conduct regular meetings of addicts who support each other in making their lives nicotine free.
Through policy measures like augmenting taxes on tobacco products, rigorous laws controlling who can buy them, placing restrictions at places where they can’t be used, advertisements spreading awareness regarding its repercussions, etc. The governments should take cognizance of growing online ways that attract youngsters to tobacco and hence regulate the contents on the internet which potentially encourage it like regulation of OTT platforms and encouraging game developers to refrain from using tobacco imagery in video games.
A contemplation over such a sensitive issue cannot be completed without iterating that instilling the feeling of responsibility and concern for future life in children can save them from tobacco addiction. When children realize that the mere act of showing protest against their parents by adopting these ill- habits are going to seriously implicate not only their lives but also their loved ones will save them from this addiction.