“We need to ‘cut through the smoke’ on tobacco industry interference,” says cancer charity on World No Tobacco Day

This World No Tobacco Day, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland joins the World Health Organization (WHO) in calling out the tactics used by the tobacco industry to appeal to young people and create a new generation of smokers.

Marked annually since 1987, World No Tobacco Day is organised by the WHO on 31 May to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco. This year’s theme is “Protecting children from tobacco industry interference.” It follows new evidence from the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, which showed that tobacco industry interference increased in many countries – including in the UK, which was ranked 3rd for interference in 2021 and dropped to 21st in 2023 (lower ranking means lower interference score means less interference).

“We are not immune from tobacco company interference here in Northern Ireland,” explains Naomi Thompson, Health Improvement Manager at Cancer Focus NI. “It has been especially visible in the talking points against smokefree legislation and in the marketing of e-cigarettes, which have bright colours and flavours designed expressly to target young people who do not otherwise smoke. But the fact is: smoking is the single most entirely preventable cause of ill-health, disability, and death. We need to cut through the smoke on tobacco industry interference and take action to protect our citizens – and our already strained health service.”

Naomi continues: “The marketing of tobacco and nicotine products to non-smokers is one of the reasons why we need regulations on novel products. The proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which recently gained approval from the NI Assembly, was positioned to enable just that – not even to mention its provisions around existing tobacco products, which would have been so important to creating a smokefree generation. We are extremely disappointed that this Bill has fallen to the wayside in light of the General Election announcement, and we urge any future government to put it back on the agenda. In NI, smoking is responsible for 35,000 hospital admissions, 2,200 deaths, and £200M in hospital spend each year. For the health of Northern Ireland, we need to go smokefree.”

To help counter tobacco interference, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland works with the Public Health Agency to deliver key information and messaging, to equip people with the knowledge and skills to resist the temptation to smoke and remain smoke free throughout their lives. These programmes are delivered in school, work, and community settings, and are in addition to Cancer Focus NI’s stop smoking support services. To learn more, visit