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As Guatemala struggles with the tobacco epidemic, the government continues to buy the tobacco industry’s rhetoric on youth smoking prevention programmes. “Yo Tengo Poder” (I have the power) is a programme led by Philip Morris supposedly to prevent young people from smoking. At face value, of course, it looks like a legitimate programme, but as tobacco control advocates everywhere know, such programmes are at best ineffective, and at worst enhance the “forbidden fruit” image of smoking in children’s minds, as well as marginalising opposition, blaming parents and society (not marketing) for youth smoking, and gaining unjustified credibility for tobacco companies by working with parents and in the community.
The brochure is being distributed direct to Guatemalan households. At the end there is an endorsement by the Minister of Education, and the fine print reads, “Produced by Lifetime Learning System Inc and financed by Philip Morris International Inc”. As so often, in the fine print lies the truth. Health advocates, as well as staff from the Ministry of Education, should be made fully aware of the industry’s strategy. In addition, it is the duty of people who have access to the academic literature describing the industry’s strategy, to make policymakers aware of the research.
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