May 30, 2023
The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) supports World No Tobacco Day, which occurs annually on May 31st. Tobacco use continues to be a major global public health issue; most tobacco use initiation occurs during adolescence and young adulthood. In support of the 2023 theme, “Grow Food, Not Tobacco,”1 SAHM encourages everyone around the globe who works to protect the health and well-being of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) to commit individual and collective efforts to: 1.) reduce tobacco production because of the negative environmental and human impacts, and 2.) prevent and reduce tobacco use among all adolescents and young adults.
Reduce Tobacco Production Because of the Negative Environmental and Human Impacts
Tobacco farming, which occurs in more than 124 countries, requires exorbitant amounts of water and contributes to biodiversity loss, deforestation, and desertification. The pesticides used in tobacco farming lead to significant degradation of soil and contamination of lakes, rivers, and drinking water. The land used to grow tobacco should instead be used to grow food to feed millions of people across the globe, reducing food insecurity and increasing health and well-being.1-5
Tobacco production also has direct human health impacts on laborers who work in unsafe conditions. Of particular concern to SAHM is the exposure of AYAs to green tobacco illness, nicotine poisoning, and tobacco smoke as they work in the fields to harvest tobacco. 1-5
To reduce the negative environmental and human impacts resulting from tobacco production, SAHM supports efforts to help farmers transition from growing tobacco to instead growing sustainable food crops. SAHM calls upon all governments to fulfil their obligations as stated in Article 18 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: “Parties agree to have due regard to the protection of the environment and the health of persons in relation to the environment in respect of tobacco cultivation and manufacture within their respective territories.”6
Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use Among All Adolescents and Young Adults
Decades of evidence support the harmful role that tobacco and nicotine play in health. Tobacco and nicotine use in any form is highly addictive, with AYAs particularly susceptible to nicotine’s effects and addictive potential given their ongoing brain development.7-10 Companies selling tobacco products specifically target AYAs.10-11
Preventing and reducing tobacco use among AYAs requires a continued commitment to prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies. Clinicians, researchers, educators, and advocates for AYAs across the globe can reduce tobacco use by promoting prevention efforts at the individual, community, society, and policy levels. SAHM encourages all AYA healthcare providers to screen for, counsel, and offer treatment for tobacco use. This requires continued training of AYA healthcare providers to integrate screening for tobacco use into routine health visits, provide evidence-based counseling, and provide treatment resources for tobacco use/cessation.
SAHM encourages educational campaigns and curricula that provide AYAs with accurate information about the health risks of tobacco use. SAHM encourages the use of MPOWER strategies to reduce tobacco use as called for by the World Health Organization.12 MPOWER strategies include warning about tobacco-related dangers; raising taxes on all tobacco products; enforcing bans on tobacco ads, promotions, and sponsorships; protecting people from tobacco smoke; offering help to quit tobacco; and monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies.
In support of World No Tobacco Day, SAHM calls on all to commit to: 1.) transitioning resources that are used to grow tobacco and that continue to addict another generation of nicotine users to instead growing crops that feed the hungry, and 2.) preventing and reducing tobacco use among AYAs through policy, prevention, and cessation efforts. Together we can strive to “Grow Food, Not Tobacco” and protect all adolescents and young adults throughout the globe from tobacco addiction and tobacco-related disease.
- World Health Organization, 2023. World no Tobacco Day 2023. Available at: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-no-tobacco-day/2023. Accessed on May 24, 2023.
- World Health Organization, 2017. Tobacco and it’s environmental impact: An overview. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/255574/9789241512497-eng.pdf. Accessed on May 24, 2023.
- Tobacco and the Environment, Tobacco Tactics. 2022. Available at: https://tobaccotactics.org/article/tobacco-and-the-environment/. Accessed on May 24, 2023.
- Márquez PV. World No Tobacco Day 2022: Realizing environmental and public health co-benefits. Available at: http://www.pvmarquez.com/worldnotobaccoday2022. Accessed on May 24, 2023.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. Environmental Impacts of the Tobacco Lifecycle. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/infographics/pdf/wntd2022_print.pdf. Accessed on May 24, 2023
- World Health Organization, 2003. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Available at: https://fctc.who.int/publications/i/item/9241591013. Accessed on May 24, 2023.
- Nelson LF, Weitzman ER, Levy S. Prevention of Substance Use Disorders. Med Clin North Am. 2022;106(1):153-168. DOI: 10.1016/j.mcna.2021.08.005.
- Bhalerao A, Sivandzade F, Archie SR, Cucullo L. Public Health Policies on E-Cigarettes. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2019;21(10):111. DOI: 10.1007/s11886-019-1204-y.
- Yuan M, Cross SJ, Loughlin SE, Leslie FM. Nicotine and the adolescent brain. J Physiol. 2015;593(16):3397-3412. DOI: 10.1113/JP270492.
- Wilson K, Walley S. Electronic Cigarettes and Vape Devices: A Comprehensive Guide for Clinicians and Health Professionals. Springer. 2021.
- Lempert LK, Halpern-Felsher B. Adolescent E-cigarette Use: Rates, concerns, and policy implications. In Halpern-Felsher B. Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Health. Elsevier. 2023.
- World Health Organization, Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, 2023. Tobacco Free initiative. MPOWER measures. Available at: https://www.emro.who.int/tfi/mpower/index.html#:~:text=MPOWER%20measures,-In%20line%20with&text=Monitoring%20tobacco%20use%20and%20prevention,about%20the%20dangers%20of%20tobacco. Accessed on May 24, 2023.