Each year on 31 May, the World Health Organization hosts “World No Tobacco Day”.  This year’s theme was to “tobacco denormalization”, the “ban advertising, promotion and sponsorship” of tobacco.

Tobacco denormalization educates people about marketing tactics used by the tobacco industry, rather than the health effects tobacco has on smokers.

This campaign is expected to be more effective since smokers already know about the long-term health effects of smoking. The theme also appeals to those who are simply against big companies and their contemptible ideas. Tobacco denormalization shifts some responsibility onto the tobacco industry rather than the smokers.

The tobacco industry predicts that it will lose all its business in about thirty years because most of their customers, primarily seniors, are dying, and dying faster than they would be otherwise thanks to tobacco use. To combat this, the industry has shifted their focus in advertisement campaigns to target youth.

Many tobacco products today are sold in creative and innovative packaging that imitates the packaging of candy and offered in different flavours. This way, teens are more attracted to the product since it is easier to hide the products from their parents. If a worried parent were to open up a school bag of their child, they would only see colourful wrappers and objects that resemble candy or  lip balm.

The tobacco industry has also updated forms of tobacco to suit the needs of teens.
One of their products, called “Orbs Fresh” which resembles Tic Tac, is a “smoke-free” tobacco product that will dissolve in a user’s mouth. “Snuff”, another “smoke-free” tobacco product is meant to be put at the back of the mouth which will then cut the gums so that the drug easily makes its way into the bloodstream. This way, teens can consume tobacco without being noticed.

Teens are often unaware that smoke-free tobacco products are just as addictive and harmful as other tobacco products. Although these products are often purchased because they sound less harmful, the physiological effects associated with tobacco use and addiction remain dangerous and real.

One of the latest trends in youth is smoking shisha. Shisha describes the practice of water pipe smoking, originating in the Middle East and Ancient Persia. It is now practised in Western countries, often during social events in a group. Youth often mistakenly believe that smoking shisha is safer than smoking cigarettes.

According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, a user may be exposed to up to 9 times the carbon monoxide, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, and 1.7 times the nicotine of a single cigarette in a single water pipe session. Users of shisha are also at risk for the same diseases as a cigarette smoker, including lung cancer, low birth weight (for newborns to female users), and heart disease.

The American Lung Association warns that shisha smokers risk infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, and hepatitis and herpes since many people share the hose or mouthpiece of the shisha during a smoking session.

To learn more about tobacco denormalization and other facts about tobacco, students can visit the Youth Advocacy Training Institute, which is a program of the Ontario Lung Association that also provides training session or Non-Smokers’ Rights Association.