AAP 2011: The Perils of Children and Tobacco

Article

Tobacco disease is considered by many to be a non-communicable disease epidemic with approximately six million needless deaths due to tobacco use worldwide each year.

“One billion deaths could occur in this century due to tobacco-related diseases.”

- Douglas Bettcher, MD

Douglas Bettcher, MD, Director of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization (WHO), gave this year’s American Academy of Pediatrics National Convention and Exhibition’s prestigious Christopherson Lecture. His lecture, “Tobacco and Children: A Global Epidemic,” garnered a lot of attendees who know the need to help decrease the number of children who smoke tobacco. Upon explaining his passion for fighting against tobacco, Bettcher said, “I have morphed and evolved into a global tobacco warrior.”

Tobacco disease is considered by many to be a non-communicable disease epidemic with approximately six million needless deaths due to tobacco use worldwide each year. The four major risk factors of tobacco include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory issues, which attribute to 60% of death worldwide; the most occurring in developing countries. Bettcher excitedly explained how at this year’s General Assembly of the United Nations was the second time history when global heads-of-state got together to talk about the need to address public health issues; this time was about tobacco control. The fact that there is a chance for one billion deaths to occur worldwide in this century because of tobacco is getting the attention of world leaders.

Tobacco Facts

  • One-quarter of children start smoking before age 10 — “We underestimate the addictiveness of tobacco,” said Bettercher.
  • Of those children and teenagers who smoke tobacco now, 250 million will die from tobacco-related disease
  • Approximately 600,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke a year; 28% are children
  • 40% of children are exposed to secondhand smoke in the home
  • Approximately 50% of children are exposed to secondhand smoke outside the home

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) “is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO” between 100+ countries and is one of the most successful treaties in UN history; it puts tobacco control as a priority on the international agenda. The WHO FCTC developed MPOWER, which outlines the goals it wants to achieve in improving tobacco use in children and adolescents.

Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies

Protect from tobacco smoke — work to have 100% smoke-free public places, coordinate with parents to make the home a smoke-free environment, and ban smoking in cars

Offer to help quite tobacco use — work with primary care physicians on asking about the smoking status of patients, including youths and their parents; offer advice to quit smoking

Warn about the dangers of tobacco — Bettcher said that Turkey has the most number of best anti-tobacco practices and uses mass media campaigns to help get the message across

Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship — “I call this putting the mute button on the tobacco industry,” said Bettcher

Raise taxes on tobacco — Youth population are 2-3 times more responsive to higher prices than adults

Bettcher concluded the lecture by saying…

“Imagine a world where you can grow up free from tobacco.”

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