In line with the international Global Battle Against Tobacco (G-BAT) campaign, a Taipei-based anti-tobacco organization launched a drive yesterday calling on young people in Taiwan to sign a petition to show their determination to stay off cigarettes.
The campaign, with the theme “Tobacco-Free Youth,” is one of several local anti-tobacco events in the run-up to Saturday’s World No Tobacco Day and was organized by the John Tung Foundation.
The organization has invited the 10 finalists of the popular TV singing competition 1 Million Stars to appeal to the approximately 1 million teenagers and young adults attending the country’s 165 universities and colleges to say “no” to tobacco.
Chen Shu-li (陳淑麗), a foundation volunteer, said the foundation hopes to collect signatures from at least 100,000 students by next month, which would make Taiwan the first nation to show its determination by joining the G-BAT campaign.
Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川), deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office and former executive director of the foundation, said the WHO chose “Tobacco Free Youth” as the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day to awaken global youth to the importance of the anti-tobacco message.
But it won’t be easy.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Yeh said.
“Although the anti-tobacco campaign has been quite successful among adults, the number of young people smoking continues to rise every year,” he said.
National Youth Commission Chairwoman Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷) said the hope of a country lies in the hands of its young people, who should be the masters of their own bodies and who should say “no” to tobacco.
“Being anti-tobacco is not only a way of loving oneself, but also a way of loving the Earth,” she said, adding that 6,800 tonnes of cigarette butts are created by the 42 billion cigarettes smoked in Taiwan every year.
The foundation, one of Taiwan’s most prominent non-governmental organizations, was founded in 1984 to promote public interest in the areas of tobacco control, mental health and nutrition.
About 20,000 people die annually from tobacco-related disease in Taiwan, where about 5 million people, or 22 percent of the population, are smokers, foundation statistics show.
In late January, the Department of Health proposed raising the health tax on cigarettes to NT$45 per pack instead of the current NT$10, while an amendment to the Tobacco Hazard Control Act (菸害防治法) approved by the legislature will be implemented early next year to ban all indoor smoking in universities and colleges, in addition to setting up designated smoking areas on campuses.
According to the WHO’s first report on global tobacco use and control efforts released on Feb. 5, tobacco use has become one of the biggest public health threats globally, killing 5.4 million people each year at present and likely to kill 8 million annually by 2030.