Scientists, NGOs and media need to cooperate to enforce tobacco control: Lessons learned by failure and success in Austria

October 22, 2020

Authors: Manfred Neuberger and Kurt Aigner
Tobacco Prevention and Cessation

Abstract
 
From 2007 to 2016, Austria performed poor in implementation of FCTC, holding the last position in TCS of ECL. With support of ENSP and other NGOs scientists drew attention to SHS in the hospitality industry and achieved a change of legislation. Still, the smoke-free hospitality industry could not enter into force before media revealed corruption.
 
Before and after the start of smoke-free hospitality (1 November 2019), air samples were collected secretly in hospitality venues of all types and analyzed for PM10, PM2.5, PM1, PNC and LDSA (correlated with air nicotine).
 
After the improvement of smoke-free environments, Austrian NGOs turned to persisting problems of youth protection: low price of cigarettes compared to purchasing power, high number of retailers, and lack of age control. In a study in 8 types of Austrian schools for adolescents aged 13–16 years, 95.1% of 1082 pupils returned questionnaires, which had been distributed at the begin of a lesson in class.
 
Of these, 38.4% reported to have tried tobacco, girls (41.6%) more frequently than boys (34.9%), while 3.3% used tobacco daily and 4.6% several times a week, thus 7.9% smoked regularly. From multiple answers the tobacco sources were: friends 73%, tobacco shop 25%, family 20%, vending machines 18%, and internet 5%. Girls buy their tobacco products from vending machines (11.6%) more frequently than boys (6.0%) (p=0.014) and they prefer normal cigarettes (p<0.001), while boys used other nicotine products (shisha> e-cigarettes> hand-rolled> cigars>oral tobacco) more frequently than girls.
 
NGOs need to shift focus to youth protection, a levy on tobacco tax dedicated for prevention, a reduction of tobacco retailers, ban of vending machines, ban of smoking, advertising and display at point-of-sale, plain packaging, mystery shopping for age control and specific cessation aids for girls and boys.