World No Tobacco Day Exposes How… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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World No Tobacco Day Exposes How Tobacco Companies Continue To Target Kids – and Why Policy Makers Must Act Now to Stop Them

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On May 31, countries around the world will mark World No Tobacco Day, which this year is shining the light on how tobacco companies continue to lure and addict kids across the globe. The World Health Organization’s 2020 World No Tobacco Day campaign, #tobaccoexposed, highlights how tobacco companies have modernized their marketing playbook to continue targeting kids with both traditional tobacco products and more novel products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. The industry’s goal remains the same: To attract young people as replacement customers for the more than 8 million people killed by tobacco products worldwide each year.

Despite their loud claims otherwise, the evidence is clear that tobacco companies continue to target kids. From selling gummy bear and cotton candy flavored e-cigarettes to paying influencers to flood social media with ads for tobacco products, tobacco and e-cigarette companies have adapted their playbooks to stand out to today’s youth.

In dozens of countries around the world, tobacco companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco surround elementary schools and playgrounds with advertisements for cigarette brands. In the U.S., youth e-cigarette use has soared – fueled by more than 15,000 flavors, massive doses of nicotine and the youth-oriented marketing tactics of companies like Juul

In recent months, the industry has stooped to new lows to target youth by exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to sell more products. In more than 28 countries, tobacco and e-cigarette companies have used social media and other marketing tactics to launch pandemic-themed promotions, undermine minimum age purchase restrictions meant to protect youth and make unproven and illegal health claims. These companies have gone so far as to introduce tobacco-branded face masks and to give away free masks with e-cigarette purchases.

Make no mistake, the target of big tobacco’s marketing campaigns could not be clearer. As the world marks World No Tobacco Day, it is imperative to see the tobacco industry for what it is: an industry of death and disease targeting the world’s young people with addictive products.

With health experts warning that smoking and vaping can worsen the effects of COVID-19, it is more critical than ever that governments around the world implement proven strategies to stop the tobacco industry’s harmful practices and save lives. These include tobacco tax increases, 100% smoke-free public places, large pictorial warnings on tobacco products and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Policy makers should also prohibit flavored tobacco products given the clear evidence these products attract and addict kids. Now more than ever, policy makers must protect kids and health from this predatory industry.