World No Tobacco Day 2024: Consumption Among Teenagers in Europe on the Rise

Tuesday, 28 May 2024

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, 31/05/2024 – World No Tobacco Day is celebrated each year on the 31st of May. With this year’s topic – protecting children from tobacco industry interference – the WHO wants to draw attention to the predatory marketing practices of tobacco companies to the detriment of the youth. 

Particularly in Europe, there is nothing to celebrate: the data presented by the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study are appalling. In 2022, one in six (15%) boys and girls aged 15 years old smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, with a peak of 32% in Bulgaria. This figure is even higher for e-cigarette use: 18% for boys and 20% for girls, with a peak of 32% for Lithuanian girls.

In the face of this tobacco epidemic, which affects the younger generations the most, the European Commission failed to deliver on its own plans to revise the Tobacco Tax Directive, Tobacco Products Directive and Recommendation on Smoke and Aerosol Free policies. 

While the Commission stands paralysed, the tobacco industry is not sitting on its hands: according to an analysis conducted by SFP based on publicly available data, in the past five years, the tobacco industry and their lobbyists held around 100 meetings with MEPs from the broad range of political groups. The analysis shows that the far-right (ECR and ID) held the most meetings with the tobacco industry, with a total of 35 meetings. Furthermore, Italian and Swedish MEPs were the most responsive to meeting requests from the industry, with Danish MEPs closely following. They held 24, 17, and 13 meetings respectively – with MEP Nissinen (ECR, Sweden) taking the lead with a total of 8 meetings, followed by Vistisen (ID, Denmark) and Skyttedal with 6 meetings both.

Needless to say, the number of meetings that civil society succeeded in organising pales in comparison. This shows that tobacco industry interference is well and healthy – and successful: the von der Leyen’s Commission has been characterised by a complete lack of progress on tobacco control.

To make sure that the next mandate is more proactive on tobacco control and concretely acts to safeguard the health of everyone, and of the youth particularly, the NGO Smoke Free Partnership launched the #OneMinuteOneLife campaign. Highlighting that tobacco kills a person every minute in Europe, the campaign urges candidates in the upcoming European elections to sign a pledge committing to supporting tobacco control policies by accelerating the EU institutions to adopt vital legislation that will drive down mortality caused by tobacco - and safeguard public budgets at a challenging time.

On this World No Tobacco Day, and every day, EU policymakers need to be reminded of their commitment to protect public health measures from “commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry” under Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control. “The health of younger and future generations cannot be left in the hands of an industry that profits off of hooking people to its toxic products from an ever younger age”, said Lilia Olefir, SFP Director.

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