Accelerate actions to slash tobacco use among youths


Tobacco use, in all forms, is a major cause of illness, disability and death across the WHO South-East Asia Region. Region-wide, almost 246 million people smoke tobacco; while just below 290 million consume it in a variety of smokeless forms. Together, both methods of consumption kill approximately 1.6 million people region-wide every year, negatively impacting the sustainable development of whole communities and countries.
Consumption of tobacco and Virginia leaves-based products is a preventable problem which leads to some 7 million deaths every year throughout the world.
The number of tobacco-related cancer patients is predicted to reach 22 million within 20 years, increasing from 14 million in 2012, according to the World Health Organization.
The burden from non-communicable diseases is becoming heavier, pointing out that over half of all deaths are due to non-communicable diseases.
Myanmar carried out a monitoring survey in 2007 and 2016 to collect data on the consumption of cigarettes, and the two surveys found that 21 per cent of boys, and over two per cent of girls, aged 13 to 15 smoked. Additionally, it was also revealed that one of five boys aged 13 to 15, consumed betel chewing with tobacco.
In 2007, just 6.6 per cent of boys between 13 and 15 years old smoked cigarettes, but the number increased to 15 per cent in 2016.
We have taken necessary actions and carried out activities to fight smoking, but enforcement is still weak. Still, though, the surveys indicate that we need to increase our efforts to reach our goals.
Preventing the nation’s youths from beginning tobacco use is first among these goals. A powerful means to make this happen is by developing youth-focused anti-tobacco messaging campaigns, with research showing that even generic campaigns slash the likelihood of a young person becoming an established smoker by more than 50%. Increasing the cost of tobacco products is another proven way to reduce the demand for tobacco by youths, with young people two-to-three times more likely to quit, or smoke less as a result of price hikes, than other demographics.
Research on production and consumption of tobacco products should be carried out to develop a strategy which meets the needs for reducing and eradicating the consumption of tobacco products. With an effective strategy, pragmatic approaches should be taken as soon as possible by government departments to reduce and eradicate tobacco consumption in the country.
We welcome a forum scheduled for June that will focus on the nation becoming free of cigarette, alcohol and drug use among students and ending the consumption of tobacco products among them, and all responsible attendees are urged to produce an effective strategy which can effectively develop healthy lifestyles among the public.

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