Making Big Tobacco Pay: A Call from the South African Tobacco-Free Youth Forum (SATFYF) in Solidarity with Youth

By: Xolisile Dlou and Lesego Mateme

On August 12, International Youth Day, international youth organizations issued a statement denouncing the tobacco industry’s role in the development of a new generation of addicts and urging governments to hold the business accountable for past, present, and future harms.

To demand justice and compensation and to ensure that the tobacco business is not given a place at the table, the youth spoke on behalf of both them and the next generation. In addition to the vaping epidemic, digital marketing, sports sponsorship, child labour, and environmental harms, such as the build-up of toxic single-use plastics in the oceans, which are covered up by phony philanthropies and questionable grants, the tobacco industry is also implicated in the statement.

According to the statement, juvenile addiction and recreational usage should be given priority when developing vaping legislation. The youth also want government to hold the tobacco industry accountable and responsible, which might include suspending licenses, making up for damages, making financial assurances for future damages, as well as legal action, tobacco surcharges, penalties, fees, or taxes, among other things.

In addition to addiction and environmental damage, tobacco usage results in 8 million fatalities per year. Losses to marine resources from single-use plastics in cigarette packs and butts alone amount to at least 20 billion dollars a year. Overall, the industry suffers losses totalling USD 1.4 trillion yearly, outweighing any economic advantages.

Sanele Zulu, SATFYF Convener said “When the government allows the tobacco industry to influence tobacco control or vaping policy, they are serving the heads of our children to the tobacco industry on a platter.  We should not allow this,”