Foundation expands focus to include childhood obesity

The organization that helped cut Virginia’s youth smoking rate almost in half hopes to duplicate that success by getting kids to kidschoose apples and playing outdoors over potato chips and watching television.
The Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation last year took on an added mission and a new name — the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.
“The General Assembly gave us the responsibility for childhood obesity because of our success in reaching young people with prevention messages and education,” said Marty Kilgore, the foundation’s executive director.
“We can easily add on a component of eating healthy, making sure you are physically fit,” Kilgore said.
The Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation was created in 1999 by the General Assembly and is funded with money from Virginia’s share of a multistate master settlement with large tobacco companies.
Virginia’s smoking rate among high school students dropped from 28.6 percent in 2001 to 15.5 percent in 2007, according to the foundation’s Virginia Youth Tobacco Survey. Nationally in 2007, about 20 percent of high school students smoked.
The foundation is planning a May 17-18 summit in the Richmond area on preventing childhood obesity to bring together partners and others.
At the meeting, the organizers will release results of a telephone survey of 2,400 school-age children statewide that provides baseline data on child obesity prevalence, physical activity levels, dietary habits, and TV and gaming screen time.
Existing estimates suggest about 31 percent of Virginians age 10 to 17 are overweight or obese.
Strategies that the foundation has used to reduce youth smoking include multimedia marketing campaigns and funding research to find the best prevention methods. In addition, the foundation funds community-based prevention programs and enforcement of laws against youth tobacco purchases.
Some of those strategies could be used in dealing with childhood obesity.
The foundation also is soliciting proposals for one-year grants worth up to $75,000 for youth smoking prevention projects that may include an obesity prevention component. Any community organization can apply, Kilgore said.
A total of $1.2 million is available.
One foundation-supported study offers a glimpse in how dual health promotion messages — smoking prevention and eating healthier — could be integrated into a single initiative.
Steven J. Danish, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor of psychology, and his team’s research looked at the effect of an intervention program on smoking prevention and getting middle school children to eat five fruits and vegetables a day.
In the project, trained high school students taught eight workshops. Six rural schools received the intervention while six other rural schools didn’t.
“With kids who are in the sixth and seventh grade, the smoking numbers are so small, it’s hard to make a difference,” Danish said. “We did see changes in the five-a-day. They knew what to do. There were changes. They did not last as long as we would have liked.”
Danish said it may be difficult to change children’s eating behaviors because they don’t always decide what’s available to eat at home or school. Parents and other adults do.
Preliminary data from the research suggest that having friends and family who ate five fruits and vegetables a day increased students’ confidence in their ability to do the same.
The data are being further analyzed to look for relationships between fruit and vegetable intake and television watching, Internet usage and dinner with family, Danish said.
“I think the way to success at this is really in small incremental steps. .. What is the smallest behavior you can change? I don’t know that we do that enough with kids.”

Tobacco control efforts targeting young people

Hong Kong – According to the Thematic Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department between late 2007 young smokersand early 2008, the number of daily smokers aged 15 or above was 676,900 or 11.8% of the population in that age group (male: 20.5%, female: 3.6%). The number of daily smokers aged 15-19 was 10,500 or 2.4% of the population in that age group (male: 3.5%, female: 1.2%). The daily consumption of cigarettes by smokers aged 15-19 was 9 and 11 in 2005 and 2008 respectively. This Thematic Household Survey also interviewed children aged 10-14. However, due to the small-scale sample size of this age group, as well as problems such as the possibility of unreliable sources of information, and possible under-reporting by respondents, children of this age group were not included in the data analysis of this survey.
(b) and (c) International surveys and studies show that young people can obtain cigarettes through different channels, one of which is purchase from shops. They may also be given cigarettes by their elder family members or friends. Young people also take up smoking for various reasons, including the influence of family members, peers or their social environment. As pointed out by the World Health Organisation (WHO), young people are also highly susceptible to thetobacco-advertisements-smoking-desires.
A study conducted by the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) on the relationship between smoking experience of children and family smoking found that children with smoking family members were more likely to have smoked. Children living with one smoker were 79% more likely to have smoked than those living with non-smokers; and the chance would increase to 424% when there were three or more smokers at home.
According to WHO’s advice on tobacco control policy formulation, a comprehensive and interactive strategy is necessary for any tobacco control policy targeting young people. Such a strategy must include banning all forms of tobacco advertising and promotions, implementing smoke-free workplaces and schools, public places, vehicles and homes, educating youngsters on the risks of nicotine addiction and tobacco use, addressing smoking cessation among all smokers, including youngsters and adults, as well as increasing tobacco prices through taxes and other means. Since young people can still obtain cigarettes from multiple channels including their friends and family, restricting access to cigarettes solely by way of legislation would not produce significant effects.
In view of the above, the Government has long been taking a multi-pronged, progressive approach to minimise the harmful effects of tobacco on young people. Measures adopted include publicity and education, provision of smoking cessation services, increase of tobacco duty, and enactment of legislation to ban tobacco advertisements and expand the statutory no smoking areas (to cover all indoor public places, schools, public pleasure grounds, beaches, stadia and restaurants, as well as karaoke clubs, cyber cafes and amusement game centres etc where young people frequently visit). The enforcement of the legislative provisions that prohibit the sale of cigarettes to persons under the age of 18 is also part of the Government’s tobacco control efforts targeting young people.
With regard to youth education and publicity, the Tobacco Control Office (TCO) under the Department of Health has produced tailor-made guidelines and display boards for the implementation of tobacco control measures at schools as well as promotional leaflets for young people. The Government also provides funding to non-government organisations such as COSH and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals to organise anti-smoking activities for children and adolescents. Such activities include smoke-free educational programmes organised in collaboration with primary and secondary school principals and parents, tobacco control education programme featuring “Health Talk” and “Education Theatre” for adolescents to educate students on the hazards of smoking as well as how to resist the temptation of smoking and support a smoke-free environment.
COSH from time to time organised territory-wide large scale education promotional programmes to spread the message of a smoke-free environment, and to educate children on how to protect themselves from the harmful effects of passive smoking. Children and adolescents are the major targets of all these programmes aimed at encouraging them to support a smoke-free environment and life-style. Such programmes include the “Smoke Free Hong Kong Starts with Teens” from 2005 to 2006, the “Smoke-free Environments – Create & Enjoy!” Photo Collection Campaign in 2007 and the “Smoke-free Family” Campaign in 2008.
Looking ahead, the Government and COSH will continue to focus on raising the awareness of tobacco’s harmful effects among children and adolescents in conducting education and promotional programmes for this target group. In particular, the promotional efforts will first aim at families by encouraging adults to set a good role model at home in order to reduce the accessibility of tobacco products to children and adolescents.
On the enforcement front, tobacco control inspectors conduct frequent inspections at cigarette retail outlets. During inspections, staff of TCO would examine if a sign is displayed to indicate that the sale of cigarettes to young people under the age of 18 is prohibited. They would also explain the statutory requirements to the persons-in-charge and distribute no-smoking labels.
According to the survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department, the percentage of smokers in the 15-19 age group in Hong Kong dropped from 3.5% in 2005 to 2.4% in 2008. This shows that the tobacco control measures aimed at young people have been largely effective. However, we will not be complacent. Continuous and simultaneous efforts in education, law enforcement, taxation and provision of smoking cessation services are essential to preventing young people from smoking. The Government will continue to devote resources to promoting a smoke-free culture, with a view to raising awareness among the youths of the harmful effects of smoking and preventing them from picking up the habit of smoking.
March 3, 2010, HKSAR Government

WHO tobacco treaty a global first

GENEVA, On March 01 representatives from the 168 ratifying countries of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) tobacco treaty World Health Organizationgathered to celebrate its landmark fifth anniversary. As part of the convening, the treaty Secretariat released a comprehensive report on the history of the treaty, assessing its successes to date and the challenges that remain.
The civil society organizations, like US-based Corporate Accountability International, responsible for mobilizing global grassroots support for the treaty, were also on hand to discuss the persistent and primary threat to the treaty’s full implementation: interference by the tobacco industry.
The global tobacco treaty is the world’s first public health and corporate accountability treaty — and the most rapidly embraced treaty on record.
“These countries deserve a lot of credit. Each has overcome significant industry opposition and pressure to advance the lifesaving measures of this treaty,” said Gigi Kellett, Challenging Big Tobacco campaign director for Corporate Accountability International. “The threat from Big Tobacco is still eminent. And still there is reason for great optimism, given the success of the treaty to date.”
The treaty aims to reverse the leading preventable cause of death and disease. Each year tobacco kills 5.4 million people each year. The death toll will reach more than 8 million over the next two decades, with the majority of lives lost in developing countries. The WHO projects that strong worldwide enforcement and broad implementation of the treaty could save 200 million lives by the year 2050.
The global tobacco treaty, formally called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, is the world’s first public health and corporate accountability treaty — and the most rapidly embraced treaty on record. It today protects 86% of the world’s population.
The WHO finds that since the treaty entered into force in 2005, signatories are implementing national tobacco control coordinating mechanisms, banning advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products, and are taking measures to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
There are significant challenges to overcome. Corporate Accountability International and its allies worked with governments to secure strong treaty guidelines, insulating the treaty against corporate interference. Big Tobacco has since disregarded and worked to undermine this core component of the treaty which establishes the tobacco industry’s fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest with public health.
Governments are standing up to tobacco lobbyists. Colombia’s federal legislators barred the tobacco industry from participating in congressional negotiations of a national tobacco control law. Their exclusion accelerated this process, which led to the establishment of strong legislation with provisions in line with the global tobacco treaty.
In July 2009, during an international protocol negotiating session, signatories kicked Big Tobacco lobbyists out of the process — a move made possible by Article 5.3. Signatories safeguarded the negotiations against the tobacco industry’s fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest, sending a strong message to the industry.
Notably absent from the treaty, is the US, the country that has been at the heart of global tobacco trade since its beginnings. Though former President George W Bush took a step toward enacting the treaty and signed it in 2004, he never submitted it to the Senate for a vote. While in the Senate, President Obama twice sent official correspondence to the White House calling for the treaty’s submission.
Further, the President signed a law this summer giving the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco. This bill positions the US to meet its obligations under the treaty were it to sign.
“It’s time for the United States to join the global community and reclaim a leadership role in taking on the tobacco epidemic,” said Kellett. “This treaty will outlast all of us, setting not only a strong standard for tobacco control but also a powerful precedent for safeguarding democracies against the interference and abuses of powerful industries.”