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Each year on the 31st of May, the World Health Organization and its partners everywhere mark World No Tobacco Day. On this day, they highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce its consumption.

One of the most important gender groups today are the youths. They constitute over 17% (1.2 billion) of the world’s population with over 85% of them in developing countries. In Uganda, they form 48% of the country’s population. These present very important assets for the countries and therefore the need to guard them jealously from detractors like tobacco.

Youths are an integral component of the development process and they provide for and safeguard the future of the nation. For any country to develop, it needs to utilize these populations so that they can contribute to their country’s’ economic development and be able to compete favourably.

Tobacco has been shown to kills up to half of its users. Those who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development. In order for a country to avoid such burdens, there is need to protect this valuable population from tobacco.

Tobacco is responsible for every one in ten deaths globally. It kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. In perspective, tobacco kills more people each year than illegal drugs, AIDS and car crashes combined. It therefore has an immense potential of harming the youths.

Tobacco use is a major contributor to noncommunicable diseases such as lung cancer and heart diseases to which many new cases are currently being registered thus presenting more challenges for the already constrained health system. With such a lifestyle, any country would be at risk of losing its population to these diseases and in consequence experience a reduction in productivity.

Newer forms of tobacco smoking have penetrated many countries and these mainly target the youths thus luring them in to the habit. An example is shisha smoking which has become very common in many bars in the developing world; worryingly it has not even spared the girls.

With the current high levels of poverty, unemployment, inadequate education and other challenges facing the youth today, they may look at tobacco smoking as a means to forget about their frustrations without thinking about its consequences. The governments therefore need to reduce on such frustrations facing youths including providing them with jobs among others. The governments should also mind about the health status of youths who would take up these jobs and thus the need to protect this workforce from tobacco.

Governments should therefore put in place measures to protect present and future generations not only from the devastating health consequences due to tobacco, but also from the social, environmental and economic scourges of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Bans on advertising, promotion, and sponsorship could be effective since these have been shown to attract many youths. The increase in taxes has also been demonstrated to lead to a reduction in tobacco use and resultant diseases; this could also be a good government intervention and has been the theme of this years No Tobacco Day commemoration. Mass media campaigns can also reduce tobacco consumption, by influencing people to protect non-smokers and convincing youths to stop using tobacco. Health centres should also be utilized to effectively sensitize the populations and health workers should emphasize it as a risk factor for most of the non-communicable diseases. Youths should also be encouraged to look for ways to keep busy including participating in sports in order to avoid tobacco while promoting their health.

These and other measures will ensure that we have a young healthy and productive youth population that will propel our countries to greater heights.

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