The Department of Health and Hospitals’ Tobacco Control Program is encouraging Louisiana residents to observe World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2008.

For the 21st Annual World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization is asking advocates across the country to talk to their local policy makers about a total ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products in Louisiana.

A newly published study in the December issue of the Journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine finds that exposure to tobacco marketing, which includes advertising, promotions and cigarette free samples, more than doubles the odds that children under 18 will become tobacco users.

“According to the CDC, every year in Louisiana, 7,700 children under the age of 18 take up smoking,” said LDH Secretary Alan Levine. “These facts underscore the desperate need we have to counter tobacco’s influence on our children.”

The Department of Health is working to educate the youth of Louisiana about the dangers of tobacco use with statewide programs such as Louisiana Tobacco-Free Sports and Louisiana Tobacco-Free Schools.  The goal of these programs is to encourage community support and to educate residents about the dangers of tobacco use and the importance of remaining tobacco-free.

“School leaders have an important role in countering the tobacco industry’s influence with efforts to promote healthy lifestyles and discourage all use of tobacco products by students, staff and school visitors,” said Tiffany Netters, Program Manager for the Louisiana Tobacco Control Program.

The Louisiana Tobacco Control Program has developed the Louisiana Tobacco-Free Schools Program to assist school districts and educators in providing safe learning environment that promote healthy lifestyles, while working to counter the influence of the tobacco industry’s marketing to youth. School districts are encouraged to make all campuses 100 percent tobacco-free, use evidence-based curriculum in the classrooms, get families involved and be a cessation resource for staff and students trying to quit tobacco.