Uganda Health Communication Alliance (UHCA) has encouraged young people to use the influential tool of social media to counter the purposeful marketing of the tobacco industry to youths. While addressing participants of UHCA’s tobacco control online youth webinar, the UHCA Coordinator Mr. Richard Baguma notified the young people of their access to the powerful platform of social media.

The tobacco industry has mastered the impact of the digital era on its potential customers who are majorly the young people by marketing through brand sponsorship. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids an international organization in May 2020 globally joined more than 125 public health and other organizations from 48 countries in calling on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to immediately end the promotion of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and all other tobacco products on their platforms, including prohibiting the use of social media influencers.

Matthew L.Myers, the President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids in a press release in May 2020 disclosed that tobacco companies use social media to promote their products because they know these platforms are the gateway to young people all over the world. “In fact, the tobacco industry’s entire business model depends on addicting the next generation of tobacco users to its products. Social media companies must take action now to protect young people from the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing practices” he urged.

In addition to social media, the tobacco industry continues to violate global and national tobacco control regulations aimed at protecting public heath from the dangerous effects of tobacco use. This has been through; manufacturing of flavored tobacco and nicotine products which is attractive to youth, designing of attractive products shaped for eased portability. Point of sale marketing at outlets often frequented by children like vendor shops, selling single sticks cigarettes, indirect marketing of tobacco products through TV Shows or online streaming show, movies, games. The industry also gets involved in several litigations to weaken all kinds of tobacco control regulations, offering of scholarship for education and grants for research. Not forgetting use of donations as a means of Cooperate Social Responsibility in communities.

Therefore, countering this online influence of the tobacco industry requires an equal measure of creativity by tobacco control advocates and champions by using online channels of information sharing. Platforms like face book, twitter, Instagram, snapchat and WhatsApp can be used to gain leverage over the lies of big tobacco. It is everyone’s responsibility to comply with the Tobacco Control regulations because they are in the interest of public health.

The online Tobacco Control webinar was organized to equip young people with knowledge on countering the tobacco industry manipulations in the entertainment industry.

Mr. Baguma encouraged the youths to be vigilant as they continue to advocate for a tobacco free generation. He further called upon them to use social media platform to push for Policy change, enforcement of existing Tobacco Control Act and to hold the responsible people accountable. “Make your voice heard because the law is on your side” he said.

Author: Destiny Gladys Chaiga  

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