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World No Tobacco Day

San Francisco, California —(Map)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made May 31 “World No Tobacco Day”. They ask people around the world to go 24 hours without using any tobacco.

Each year, tobacco kills over 7 million people. Tens of millions more people live with serious illnesses caused by tobacco. The problems may be getting better for adults, but worse for teens.

When they think of tobacco, many people think of cigarettes and cigars. But other “smokeless” kinds of tobacco, such as chewing tobacco or electronic cigarettes are also dangerous.

No Smoking, No Vaping Sign
No Smoking, No Vaping Sign
(Source: Mike Mozart, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Tobacco has a drug in it called “nicotine”. Nicotine is a poison. But when people have a little bit of it, it can give them an excited feeling and make their hearts beat quicker.

Over time, nicotine changes the body so that people feel like they need more of it. After someone has used tobacco for a while, it is hard for them to stop. They may feel sick if they don’t get more nicotine. They have become “addicted” to the nicotine in the tobacco.

Every year, tobacco kills over 7 million people.
Every year, tobacco kills over 7 million people.
About 70% of smokers would like to stop.
(Source: Lindsay Fox, via Wikimedia Commons

This is why it is so hard for people to stop smoking. Some studies have shown that about 70% of smokers would like to stop. Most smokers have tried to stop many times.


Electronic cigarettes, sometimes called e‑cigarettes, are creating a new problem.

By breathing in a cloud of mist, sometimes called “vapor”, people can get the same excited feeling without actually breathing in smoke. This is often called “vaping”.

E-Cigarette Next to a Tobacco Cigarette.
E‑Cigarette Next to Tobacco Cigarette.
(Source: Lindsay Fox , from Wikimedia Commons.)

Because there is no smoke, some people thought e-cigarettes would be safer and could help people stop smoking. For some older users, that can be true. But for younger people, e‑cigarettes often are the way that they start smoking.

Targeting Kids

In the US, cigarettes and e-cigarettes can only be sold to adults. But many companies are trying to get young people to try vaping. They are using special flavors, such as gummy bear or cotton candy, and making vaping liquids look like juice or candy meant for children. The US government is trying to get the companies to stop doing this.

Companies are selling tobacco products that look like they are for children.
The “juice box” on the left is actually liquid for e-cigarettes.
The US government wants to stop companies from selling tobacco products that look like they are for children.
(Source: FDA.)

Still, more and more young people are trying out vaping, thinking that it is safe. They don’t realize that they can get addicted to the nicotine. Almost all of the liquid used in e-cigarettes has nicotine in it. That means that it still makes people addicted. And even though the “vapor” is not smoke, it has other dangerous chemicals and metals in it. Scientists still do not know how this will affect people.

Companies are using special flavors for vaping liquids. They want to interest kids.
Companies are using special flavors, such as gummy bear or cotton candy.
They want to interest kids in vaping.
(Source: Lindsay Fox, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The city of San Francisco has tried to make it against the law to sell any flavored tobacco. They want to keep young people from getting addicted to nicotine. On June 5, there will be a special vote, called a referendum  , to decide if flavored tobacco can be sold.

But selling tobacco products is big business. Already, the tobacco companies have spent almost $12 million buying ads in San Francisco. They want to win the vote so that they can keep selling tobacco with flavors.

San Francisco may find out what many people have learned the hard way: With tobacco, stopping is hard. It’s much easier if you never start.


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