Tobacco is often quoted as a personal lifestyle choice for which there should be no regulatory intervention. As a matter of fact, tobacco is one of the four risk factors that lead to chronic disease, today responsible for 63% of all deaths in the world. As striking as this may be, people continue to smoke; in fact the Eurobarometer published by the European Commission today shows that almost one in three young people in the EU are smokers. Moreover, a striking 70% of all smokers and ex-smokers took up the habit before the age of 18. This is why awareness from an early age is important and for that reason the European Commission has promoted tobacco awareness campaigns as an important element of its tobacco policy.
The 'Ex-smokers are unstoppable' is the most recent EU campaign aiming at helping smokers and ex-smokers kick away their addiction through practical advice and tools which allow them to stay smoke free. Through promotion in print, digital and social media, the campaign has reached over 300 million Europeans so far.
As the campaign targets 25-35 year olds, it is adapted to their reality. Taking for granted that any European of that age is aware of the risks of smoking for their health, it takes a positive approach towards quitting smoking, explaining the multiple benefits for young people who manage to get rid of their addiction, providing them with tools in the environments they are used to, such as online, digital and social media.
The iCoach is the tool that provides practical help – so far 170,000 Europeans have used it. It is innovative by adapting to the needs of the user, whether a smoker or an ex-smoker who wants to remain so. It is interactive and it is, of course, free!
On the occasion of this year's World No Tobacco Day, the European Commission boosts its efforts further by launching a new phase of the campaign, including the first in-flight smoking cessation card featuring tips on giving up smoking. The idea is for that last cigarette one smokes before entering the airport for a flight to become the last cigarette – the means to freedom from addiction, the beginning of a journey to a healthier and thus happier tobacco-free life.
At a conservative estimate, tobacco kills over 695,000 people each year in the EU. Smoking still remains the largest single cause of preventable death and disease in Europe. This is why over the past 10 years the EU has consistently shown strong leadership in global tobacco control. We now know this also responds to our citizens expectations: the Eurobarometer published this week shows that the large majority of EU citizens welcomes stronger tobacco control measures.
We hope that our campaign delivers results by bringing about a real change in the number of smokers around the EU. During the current challenging times, we all need positive change; this is the spirit and the aim of our 'Ex-smokers are unstoppable' campaign.