Around the world, medical students are celebrating May 31st as World No Tobacco Day. Under the theme “cigars for apples” they are organising local, national and international activities to promote a healthy lifestyle without tobacco.
Students from seventeen different national member organisations are collaborating on a project that addresses the problem of tobacco consumption on different levels.
They created a video to educate the public about the health risk associated with tobacco smoke and the effectiveness of tobacco control policies. A second video shows medical students from different countries promoting the idea of “cigars for apple”. This joint effort shows that future physicians are worried about the on-going tobacco epidemic and call for the implementation of tobacco control measures as suggested by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Furthermore, on May 31 medical students in several countries are organising community outreach projects. They are setting up stands at public places such as shopping centres and universities where they educate the public about the health risks of tobacco consumption and provide the opportunity to exchange cigarettes for apples as a reminder of the health benefits of a life without tobacco.
As a closure of the project, smoke free parties are organised by the medical students. These parties where participants voluntarily decide not to smoke underline the importance of creating smoke-free public spaces.
According to the WHO, every year almost six million people die of the consequences of tobacco use- including about 600 000 non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Every six seconds a person dies due to tobacco, which accounts for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of the current more than a billion smokers will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease. Low- and middle-income countries are particularly affected by the burden of tobacco-related illness as 80% of smokers live in these countries.
Still, only few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use as studies show. Considering this, the IFMSA as the leading organisation of worldwide medical students acknowledges the central role that physicians play in educating their patients about these health risks as well as providing support for smokers who are willing to quit.
Up to now, health-care services supporting smoking cessation are only available to 14% of the world’s population.
Therefore, the IFMSA calls for scale-up of national health-care services to provide cessation assistance and counselling for smokers.
In the last years, the tobacco industry has attempted in several ways to undermine efforts to implement tobacco control measures.
The IFMSA urges governments to protect policies from tobacco industry interference and to accelerate the implementation of tobacco control measures suggested by the FCTC such as:
- Adoption of tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption
- Ban of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
- Creation of smoke-free work and public spaces
- Implementation of prominent health warning on tobacco packages
Only if the necessary measures are taken the global tobacco epidemic can be stopped.
Medical students worldwide are ready to trade “cigars for apples”. Are you?