31st May, World No Tobacco Day

May 31, 2019

31st of May is World No Tobacco Day, an annual campaign to raise awareness of the deadly effects of tobacco not only on people who smoke but also on those around them who are exposed to second-hand smoke. But do we really need another anti-smoking campaign? The answer is yes, we do.

I remember when smoking was considered not only normal but also fashionable. You would smoke everywhere, at home, at work, in cars, aeroplanes, I even had a math teacher who used to chain-smoke in the classroom. The tobacco industry would sponsor glamorous sports events such as Formula 1 races and horse show jumping, when hostesses would walk around offering free cigarettes to everyone, including us, teenagers. In my early twenties, coffee places in Vienna such as Hawelka had a curtain of thick smoke, and it wouldn’t bother us. Luckily, things have changed!

Why we need annual campaigns

We’ve come a long way since then; in most countries, thanks to campaigns like World No Tobacco Day, smoking in public places and cigarette advertisements have been banned, smoking is not permitted under the age of 18, and the cigarette price increase has had positive effects in reducing tobacco consumption. But despite all the efforts of the World Health Organization, tobacco still kills around 8 million people every year, one every six seconds, and way too many young teens continue to think smoking is cool and choose to ignore all the information and warnings we have nowadays. In fact, according to the OECD/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, in Austria, 15% of 15-year-olds smoke daily and 28% say they have smoked in the past 30 days, which is a lot, compared to countries like Australia, where only 3.1% of teens smoke.

31st May, World No Tobacco Day

Mad Men. Photo via Reddit

Here is what you can do:

1 -The first thing you can do is quite obvious: do not smoke. If you do, today’s the day you should take a pledge to quit, once and for all! What helped me quit smoking was not wanting to be a bad example for my daughter; even when I still smoked, I never did it in front of her. Also, after some failed attempts, I decided to take a medicine prescribed by my doctor, Champix, that made quitting much easier.

2 – Raise your voice against fashion houses that glamorise smoking in their advertisement campaigns.

3 – Write to Hollywood and all film producers that insist on showing smoking in their movies as being cool, sexy and satisfying or as rebellious and edgy. According to Truth Initiative, 44% of adolescents who start smoking do it because of what they see in the movies, and surprisingly, 57% of all films rated PG-13 show people smoking; just look at the much-acclaimed TV series Mad Men, Stranger Things or Peaky Blinders.

On the other hand, Disney announced in 2015 that they would ban smoking in all the Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar movies. 

4 – Put pressure on the government to take adequate measures to reduce tobacco consumption. A good example of what a government can do is the lawsuit that the Attorney-General of Brazil filed this year against the largest tobacco corporations in the country and their parent companies abroad, to seek recovery of healthcare costs related to the treatment of tobacco-induced diseases.  

5 – Don’t be that annoying friend who always complains when somebody takes a packet of cigarettes out of the handbag, at least in my own experience, it only made me want to smoke more.

6 – Be the voice of this campaign by sharing your favourite breathtaking moments and activities on social media, and telling the world why these take your breath away, instead of tobacco.  

And since you are at it, why not make every day a No Tobacco Day?