Youth Smoking Prevention Programme
The tobacco industry multinationals are aggressively promoting their YSP programmes by offering money, expert consultants and support services to governments and civic organizations in drafting tobacco control legislations and carrying out educational and advocacy projects purported to help prevent young people from using their products. The tobacco industry has seized upon the vulnerability of tobacco control advocates who may not be aware of the true intentions of the YSP programmes. The YSP programmes were an attempt for the tobacco industry to promote themselves as "responsible corporate citizens". By accepting to take part in tobacco industry sponsored YSP programmes, these tobacco control advocates have become part of the propaganda machine for the tobacco industry.
The WHO publication of "Seeing Beneath the Surface" exposes the true intentions of the tobacco industry sponsored YSP programmes and provides a rapid test to examine the effectiveness of prevention programmes on youth smoking in our community. At the press conference, COSH demonstrated to the media how to use the rapid test in evaluating youth smoking prevention programmes.
In summary, the main pitfalls of tobacco industry sponsored YSP programmes include the following:
- the health messages are ineffective, and if anything likely to encourage smoking;
- these initiatives come with substantial public relations and image building such as ineffective youth smoking prevention initiatives that detract from meaningful tobacco policies;
- the YSP initiatives aim to define the problem of youth smoking only as a young persons' issue, disregarding the harm done to addicted smokers and the medical expenses incurred from smoking related diseases.
There is no credible evidence to back the tobacco companies' YSP initiatives and plenty to suggest they are likely to be ineffective and likely to be harmful, and primarily a public relations tool. Rather than protecting youth from tobacco, these YSP programmes may actually encourage an increase in youth smoking. COSH pledged for public support in following WHO recommendations to examine the effectiveness of prevention programmes on youth smoking that are currently taking place in the community. The tobacco industry funded YSP programmes are marketing tools that thwart the genuine efforts of tobacco control advocates in reducing tobacco consumption.