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Laws needed to curb tobacco marketing aimed at youths

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Members of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s tobacco-resistance youth group, Fresh Heir, rally in Spencer Smith Park, Burlington, to call for Canadian laws curbing tobacco industry marketing aimed at young people. From left are Heather McArthur, Paul Misner, Katie Mattina, Kristen Rattray, Michelina Palermo, Lucas Lubin and Brett Warner.

SIMCOE, ON, Aug. 24, 2007 – Several members of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit student group, Fresh Heir, joined a youth rally in Burlington recently to press for Canadian laws that would protect young people from exploitation by tobacco companies.

The group, committed to “clearing up Big Tobacco for this generation and the next” gathered with hundreds of other like-minded students from throughout southwestern Ontario to pressure Parliament into passing laws that would shield young people from tobacco industry marketing targeted at this age group.

“Overwhelming independent research shows that tobacco advertising leads to increased consumption, with 80,000 young people around the world becoming addicted daily,” said the Health Unit’s Josh Daley, Youth Advisor, Smoke-Free Ontario Program. “Young people also have the right to be alive; however, it is estimated that 250 million children alive today will die from tobacco-related illnesses and disease.”

Fresh Heir is circulating a Central West Youth Coalition petition that requests the Canadian government to “protect young people from tobacco industry exploitation by incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Canadian law, including an appeal mechanism that would give young people an ability to monitor this law, and encourage and support all countries which have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to do the same.”

The local youths participated in a walk along the Burlington waterfront and assembled in Spencer Smith Park to gather signatures and raise public awareness of the United Nations policy.

Canada signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child nearly 17 years ago, requiring the government to protect young people’s rights under this convention. Almost every country in the world has now signed this United Nations treaty. Under this convention, young people have the right to be protected from information that may harm their well-being.

“While there is no reliable estimate of global cigarette marketing expenditures, it is likely in the tens of billions of US dollars a year,” noted Monica Fess, a Peer Leader with Fresh Heir. “These multi-billion dollar tobacco companies are targeting and exploiting young people in Canada and around the world, ignoring the numerous health and financial consequences they are causing, all for the sake of boosting their profits,” Fess said. “For obvious reasons we think such unethical practices are wrong, so we’re speaking out against them in hopes of opening the eyes of our government and, more importantly, other teens.”

The Central West Youth Coalition is a partnership of young people working to prevent their peers from becoming addicted to tobacco industry products. In addition to Fresh Heir, the youth-led tobacco groups include Reveal from Brant County Health Unit, Crave from Halton Region Health Department, HCAAT from the City of Hamilton Public Health Services Department, REACT from Niagara Region Public Health Department, Toxik and Y-Act from the Region of Waterloo Public Health as well as Detox, and SWAT from the Wellington, Dufferin, Guelph Health Unit.

Fresh Heir is always looking for volunteers to help in its efforts to protect youth from the tobacco industry. Those interested in getting involved can contact the group at fresh.heir@hnhu.org or call the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 Ext. 3276 or 905-318-6623.

Media contact:
Josh Daley
Youth Advisor
Smoke-Free Ontario Program
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3276 or 905-318-6623