Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference: WHO Conference Highlights

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Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference: WHO Conference Highlights
WHO representative Jos Vandelaer spoke at a conference in Bangkok aimed at protecting children from tobacco industry interference.

According to a report by GMA on May 14th, Jos Vandelaer, the World Health Organization's representative in Thailand, delivered a speech at a conference attended by government officials, youth representatives, and public health advocates in Bangkok.


The meeting attracted government officials, youth representatives, and public health advocates from ASEAN countries, aiming to discuss how to protect children from interference by the tobacco industry. Participants discussed how the tobacco and nicotine industries continue to target children and adolescents with e-cigarette devices (ESD) in the form of toys, school supplies, and a variety of fruit-flavored candies.


According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents aged 13-15 in Asia is on the rise, often exceeding the rate of smoking. In 2022, the prevalence of e-cigarette use among boys in Malaysia was 23.5%, and 6.2% among girls. In Thailand, in 2022, 20.2% of boys and 15% of girls used e-cigarettes, while in the Philippines, in 2019, 20.9% of boys and 7.5% of girls used them.


Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), stated, "The world allowing tobacco companies to manufacture and sell cigarettes is a mistake. Existing data clearly shows that we are heading towards another crisis with e-cigarettes, and governments have the opportunity to take decisive action by banning these products widely before they become widely used.


The event also invited speakers from Hong Kong and Australia to counter misinformation in the media about the spread of e-cigarette devices, as well as to reduce the appeal and accessibility of tobacco and recreational nicotine products, and to normalize the tobacco industry.


Philippine Assistant Secretary of Education Dexter Galban stated, "Every government has a responsibility to ensure that every citizen, especially young people, fully enjoy the right to a healthy life. We will provide our youth with enough opportunities and support to meaningfully engage with the government and key stakeholders to make them more resilient. We will help them see through the false information and misinformation spread by the tobacco industry. We are working towards a smoke-free generation, a world without e-cigarettes, and a healthier future.


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