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Tobacco Action Plan for This Generation - NNSW 2002 and Youth


Thank-you to Natacha Ducharme and Janet Nevala of the Program Training

and Consultation Centre, Jocelyne Koepke of the Canadian Council for

Tobacco Control and Jodi Thesenvitz of The Health Communication Unit for

contributing content for this feature.

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National Non Smoking Week 2002

Once again, National Non Smoking Week (NNSW) is fast approaching. In 2002 it will begin on Sunday January 20 and run through to January 26, 2002. NNSW has been observed during the third week in January for more than twenty years. From its inception in 1977 until 1998, NNSW activities were coordinated by the then Canadian Council on Smoking and Health (now known as the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control - CCTC) and organized around a central theme. Since 1999 however, the CCTC has encouraged provincial councils to determine their themes in accordance with their provincial priorities. To view past themes, follow this link

Weedless Wednesday has been a focal point of NNSW almost from the start, focusing media and public attention on the benefits of cessation and the community resources available to help smokers quit. The idea behind Weedless Wednesday is to promote a "one day at a time" approach to quitting smoking, a concept appealing to many smokers who may be discouraged at the thought of an entire week -- or lifetime -- without cigarettes, but who may be able to cope with one smoke-free day. This year, Weedless Wednesday is January 23, 2002.

If you or your organization have planned activities for NNSW 2002, please let the CCTC know by e-mailing, so that they can add your information to the NNSW events calendar at

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B. Youth and Anti-Tobacco Efforts

In line with this NNSW event, today our feature article is about the role youth play (or have the potential to play) in anti-tobacco efforts.

1. The Importance of Youth to the Tobacco Industry.

Tobacco companies want youth to smoke. Why? A smoker to them is worth about $40,000 over his or her lifetime. The only problem is smokers get sick and die. They need to be replaced! Virtually all smokers start in their teens or younger (over 80% by the age of 18). Once smokers choose their usual brand by age 18; they remain very brand loyal. Tobacco companies spend millions to make youth believe lies such as smoking is cool, mature, sexy, safe, and even slimming. Overall, this generation is worth $200 million in annual (illegal) sales to the tobacco industry. If the tobacco companies play their cards right, the investment will have a huge future pay off for them. However for youth: the bottom line is more than half of young people today can count on dying from a tobacco-related disease.unless they quit (1). Youth are the key to the tobacco industry's prosperity; however, they could also be the key to its future failure. How? There are three primary ways.

2. Reasons to involve youth in anti-tobacco efforts

First, youth are an authority on youth smoking issues. They, more than anyone understand why their peers do or do not smoke! Tobacco programs with active youth involvement have been shown to have the greatest success.(2) "Involving youth also helps with finding more successful approaches to issues affecting youth."(3)

Second, youth have the ability to influence their peers. Research has shown that young people tend to do what they believe their friends and peers are doing. What youth say, or talk about helps to shape other youths beliefs about what 'everyone' is doing. In addition, a number of theories suggest that using peers, or people similar to those in the intended audience, to send messages is more likely to influence attitude and behaviour changes than using authority figures or others who members of the target audience may not relate to (4,5,6,7,).

Third, youth can, through the strategic use of media, influence not only their peers, but adults. Youth views, uncorrupted by special interests or hidden agendas, can be an important draw for the news media. "Media coverage, when presented effectively, shapes public opinion, mobilizes community activists and pressures decision makers to create policy change. Media advocacy has clear advantages in terms of its potential for permanently influencing large numbers of people in a cost-effective way. It has been successfully used by many community groups to address a variety of health issues, including tobacco control." (8) Youth in particular can produce a strong emotional effect which policy makers may feel obligated to act upon.

The above three points are not the only reasons it makes sense for youth to be as involved as possible in anti-tobacco efforts. There are additional benefits. "Youth participation offers young people the chance to develop important decision-making and problem solving skills, develop meaningful relationships, and bolster self-esteem. These benefits are known to protect youth against risk-taking behaviour that impacts negatively on health both in the short- and long-term."(9) Also, the more involved youth are in a program's design and implementation, the more likely they are to stay committed to the program and issue."(10)

3. Ways to involve youth in anti-tobacco efforts

There are many different ways youth can participate in anti-tobacco efforts that vary by level of (youth) involvement and control.

Hiring youth to speak or act out adult-developed scripts is one way to involve youth in message delivery that is fairly low on the involvement scale. Another, more involving approach is to gather youth thoughts and use them to create anti-tobacco messages. The Florida Tobacco Program is an excellent example of this. Youth ideas were gathered and developed into radio and television psa's (with youth speaking). These can be viewed/heard at (choose Go, then location 5, then view the 'producer' ad).

If a higher level of youth involvement is an option youth can be provided with online "space" through chat rooms and other online forums to express themselves freely in real time. 'Hot Talk' for example, is an uncensored (staff intervene only in crises cases) message board for teens. It is the most popular place on Cyberisle, and is an excellent example of youth delivering messages to other youth, and a high level of empowerment. To check out 'Hot Talk', go to, then click on the pack of cigarettes to access the 'Zine'. You will need to register for a user name and password.

The most thorough way to involve youth is to mobilize them to speak out and become active in prevention, cessation and protection and to give them full credit for what they accomplish. Florida's SWAT team, for example have their own website at where they profile their activities and provide all kinds of tips for action against youth smoking, particularly against the tobacco industry itself. The B.C. youth-driven Blue Ribbon Campaign is another example. It involved the dissemination of an electronic blue ribbon with the slogan "Let's clear the air".

These are only a few examples of ways in which youth can participate in anti-tobacco efforts. Other ideas and tools are presented in the accompanying resource section of this feature.

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C. PTCC Resources and Training

If you are ready to help young people to take control of their tobacco issues, PTCC invites you to order a copy of its youth advocacy handbook and facilitator's guide.

PTCC is a provincial resource center providing training and consultation on tobacco control programs to public health units, local tobacco-free coalitions, community health centers, and non-government organizations.

i) TRAINING: Youth Advocacy for tobacco control - 1 day workshop

This workshop focuses on mobilizing and recruiting youth for tobacco control advocacy activities, understanding the role that plays anti-industry messaging in tobacco control and by provides information on the best anti-tobacco initiatives around North America lead by youth groups. The Power of Many: Tobacco Action Plan for this Generation and the Facilitator's guide will also be used and explained in the workshop.

ii) RESOURCES: "The Power of Many: Tobacco Action Plan for this Generation".

The goal of this youth guide is to provide high school students with an overview of the problem of tobacco use in our society and to ignite interest among teens in becoming part of the solution. Along with this youth advocacy guide PTCC has produced also Facilitator's Guide designed and written as an accompaniment. The Facilitator's Guide is intended to provide in-depth assistance to youth leaders and adult facilitators working with groups who want to get involved in anti-tobacco advocacy. The Guide provides step-by-step instruction on how to conduct an advocacy campaign, as well as detailed background information on the tobacco industry, the health and social consequences of tobacco use, and the legislative process.

To register to our workshops and/or to get a copy of the youth guides or for more information contact the Program Training and Consultation Centre


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(1) Tobacco Truth see

(2) Health Canada. (1999). Lessons learned from the tobacco demand reduction strategy: Youth and tobacco. page 22.

(3) Why does youth participation matter? (1999). The McCreary Centre Society. Retrieved December 2001 from the World Wide Web:

(4) Rogers, E.M. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations (4th ed.). New York: Free Press.

(5) Rogers, E.M. & Kinkaid, D.L. (1981). Communication Networks: A new Paradigm for research. New York: Free Press.

(6) Kalichman, S.C., Kelly, J.A., Hunter, T.L., Murphy, D.A., & Tyler, R. (1993). Culturally tailored HIV-AIDS risk-reduction messages targeted to African-American urban women: Impact on risk sensitization and risk reduction. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61 (2), 291-295.

(7) Vaughan, P.W. & Rogers, M. Everett. (2000). A Staged Model of Communication Effects: Evidence from an Entertainment-Education Radio Soap Opera in Tanzania. Journal of Health Communication, Volume 5, pp 203-227.

(8) Council for Tobacco Free Ontario; Program Training and Consultation Centre; The Health Communication Unit. Understand and Using Media Advocacy for Tobacco Control. February 2000. Available on the web at (type 'media advocacy' into the search engine).

(9) Why does youth participation matter? (1999). The McCreary Centre Society. Retrieved November 2000 from the World Wide Web:

(10) Why does youth participation matter? (1999). The McCreary Centre Society. Retrieved November 2000 from the World Wide Web:

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