GLOBAL HEALTH WRITES
Citizen Journalist: Richeal Nic an Ri
Uniting the world in eliminating tobacco use
World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) was created by member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987. Since then, on the 31st of May each year, the WHO has selected a theme to provide a key global message to all. Examples of previous themes include gender & tobacco and tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The WHO often says that smoking is a top cause of death globally and a major cause of the world’s top killer diseases including cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Despite stringent tobacco control laws and efforts by health authorities to promote cessation of smoking, the tobacco industry has by no means slipped away and are continuously finding ways of promoting their tobacco products ever so subtly.
Examples of a promotional tactics include “stealth marketing” such as engaging influential people to promote smoking in places such as cafes and nightclubs, new design and functionality of packaging e.g. “perfume shaped” boxes, placement of tobacco products in films and television programmes and corporate social responsibility activities such as donating to charities.
Knowing the risks is only one piece of the puzzle
As a young person who smoked regularly I can see how these promotional tactics had some part to play in the appeal of smoking. However, I was very aware of the health issues associated with tobacco – I even attended lectures on lung cancer during my undergraduate, ironically enough. Occasionally, I would buy slimline cigarettes ‘for a change’ due to what I perceived to be a more elegant way of smoking. They seemed to mask the danger of smoking although I knew well they had just as much carcinogens and nicotine as other cigarettes. Indeed, in the past, smoking has been promoted to girls and women as being fun, liberating and glamorous, however, recent history has shown us it clearly is not. The damage smoking causes can initially be hidden as there is an approximate two decade lag time between smoking exposure and lung cancer symptoms.
In Ireland, I think packaging is the most important way tobacco companies sell their product and differentiate their products as other means of advertising have been eliminated. Generic packaging buy dissertation is the biggest regulatory threat to the tobacco industry in Ireland because of this. The Plain Packaging Bill was recently passed through the final stage in the Oireachtas in Ireland which means that from May 2016, cigarettes companies must start manufacturing only in standardised packaging. I hope plain packaging will help reduce the appeal of smoking, help deter people from taking up the habit and accentuate the effect of the health warnings present.
Change comes from within
Although I think this is a positive step, I don’t think it will suddenly prevent people from smoking. At the end of the day people will smoke if they want to smoke – who knows, perhaps the tobacco industry will find another way to get around the plain packaging by selling nicely designed tobacco holders. People know themselves better than anyone else and willpower is obviously key. You really have to be strong and ignore the temptations. As the late anti-smoking campaigner Gerry Collins (who sadly passed away from lung cancer on March 2, 2014) simply put it:
Don’t smoke, don’t start, and for those who have: Stop
Please click below to view Gerry Collins’ poignant final anti-smoking advert, produced by the HSE’s QUIT initiative.
This article first appeared in our inaugural issue of Global Health Matters: Issues in Focus, on Friday 29th May, which was themed around World No Tobacco Day, May 31st.
Richeal Nic An Rí is a health products scientist with a passion for Yoga and social anthropology. She recently completed a Masters in Immunology and Global Health and currently works for the Health Products Regulatory Authority. To contact Richeal about this article, please click here to send an email.