A report entitled The State of Tobacco Control 2016 was recently published by the American Lung Association, claiming that the progress towards controlling the use of tobacco in the US has been somewhat varied. The report tracked the yearly progress on main tobacco control policies and found that only the state of Minnesota scored an ‘A’ for admittance to smoking cessation services. Moreover, only North Dakota and Alaska were seen to spend highly on programs preventing and reducing the use of tobacco throughout the US.

What was more upsetting was that despite notable progress in the reduction of cigarette smoking among young individuals – rates of smoking falling about 42 percent since 2011 – almost one-fourth of high school students claimed they used at least one tobacco product, and 50 percent reported using two or more.

Getting Media Involved: Have Efforts Made A Difference?

Just last week, WHO asked governments to implement ratings on films that showed adversity tobacco, brought to the people. This was done in an effort to discourage children take up smoking.

  • In 2014, 44 percent of all Hollywood films and 36 percent of films rated to be suitable for children featured tobacco smoking.
  • A WHO report fiercely criticized Germany, Poland, Italy, the UK, the Netherlands and Mexico for showing the use of tobacco in films claimed to be suitable for children.
  • An analysis revealed that films from Argentina and Iceland featured smoking in nine out of ten films they claimed were suitable for young people.

Stop Smoking

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global public health treaty which came into action in February 2005, binds all signatories by international law to ban the advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco. However, films and images still openly show tobacco-related activities and are a major source of corrupting the minds of young children to smoke without restrictions.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to smoking via films and images could lead to more than six million individuals to take up smoking in 2014. Out of these, two million are estimated to die of tobacco-related causes.

Stop Smoking: Efforts by India and China

On the bright side, positive developments were seen in India, where new rules have been implemented regarding the imagery and brand display of tobacco products for imported and domestic television programs and films. Despite being the country where the most cigarettes are smoked, and a possibility that 20 percent of all male deaths in the coming 10 years will be due to smoking, China has shown similar progress, ordering that ‘excessive’ smoking should not be featured in films. Moreover, China raised its consumption tax on the wholesale price of cigarettes from 5 percent to 11 percent, and smoking has been strictly prohibited in various public places in Beijing. Discussions about establishing a nationwide ban are currently in progress.

Smoke-free Air Laws: Plus Point for US

This is one area in which the US has managed to do well. In the latest report by the American Lung Association, 24 states scored ‘A’ and seven states were given a ‘B’ in this regard. A Cochrane Review published last week also highlighted significant improvements in public health after enforcing a ban on smoking, both in terms of a decrease in the number of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke and the establishment of a supportive atmosphere for smokers who want to quit.

Although no particular improvements were recorded in terms of respiratory health, infant health and reductions in the number of smokers or how much they smoked, the review did find evidence of reduction in hospital admissions due to coronary syndromes, and a reduced mortality form smoking-related illness at the national level.

Banning Tobacco: A Full Throttle Approach

In the Tobacco-free World Series published in The Lancet last year, Robert Beaglehole and colleagues call for a ‘turbo-charged approach’ to curb the consumption of tobacco to almost 5 percent of global adult population by 2040. The publication commended the efforts of FCTC and their collaboration with the UN to enhance efforts towards tobacco control.

Despite certain areas where significant improvements have been recorded, we are still a long way from achieving even a small percentage of what it takes to effectively reduce tobacco consumption. What’s troubling is that countries don’t seem to be on the same page regarding the issue; Ireland was the first country to dictate nationwide smoke-free workplaces in 2004, but Germany and Austria still have no such legislation in practice.

Such lapses and non-compliances cannot be tolerated if a proper campaign against the use of tobacco and tobacco-related products is to be enforced. It is high time that all FTCT signatories started considering the health of their people and promised to do much more than their current efforts.

Media is a strong phenomenon and world utilized this medium to combat the attraction of tobacco. Countries put an effort to show non-smoking movie characters, establish non-smoking areas and develop non-smoking culture. Despite all these efforts, the globe experienced different behaviors and outcomes in defeating tobacco. Countries need to comply completely to shun smoking culture and help in reverting back with non-tobacco societies. Wolverine should stop smoking, despite the mutant healing powers, just to inspire our children.