On a windy, foggy weekend in February, a group of youth from all over Ontario gathered together in Toronto to discuss the inner workings of the tobacco industry. YATI organizers planned a wonderful, engaging weekend for all the participants while also fulfilling their mission: to provide the knowledge and skills required to prevent and reduce tobacco use.
The event began with a communal dinner and various games that let us break the ice (a.k.a. ice breakers). We jumped right into it afterwards, as we discussed Tobacco Industry Denormalization and what YATI is all about. We all received this amazing gift bag complete with a Rubix Cube USB drive too! Participants then had an open discussion on the effects of tobacco and the negative impact it has had on all of us. The brainstorming session finished with a chart paper detailing our ideas.
As we broke off into smaller groups, the next part of the conference discussed Big Tobacco’s various tricks they incorporate to lure in innocent customers. We held and examined real cartons of cigarettes currently being sold and compared them to tobacco in Plain and Standardized Packaging (PSP). Alternative Tobacco Products also came up, and it was emphasized that smokeless tobacco products are just as addictive and cancer-causing. Vaping and its numerous flavours meant to attract youth were also discussed, as was its lack of regulation (mainly stemming from how new and modern the product is). Waterpipes (a.k.a. Shishas, Hookahs, etc.) were also examined, as they also contained harmful tobacco smoke, were attractive to youth, and contained a number of fruitful flavours meant to falsely advertise a “safe” image. Waterpipes are also known for its social aspect, with numerous “Hookah Cafes” popping up in recent years. The retreat also exposed us to the prevalence of smoking in movies, something that is still a widespread issue today and definitely the wrong message being sent to youth from various celebrities.
"The takeaway for all the youth that attended detailed how far we come to fight Big Tobacco, from passing various anti-tobacco legislation to raising awareness among our own peers. Still, we left with the impression that there is still much work to be done, and it is our duty as youth to continue to fight for a world where we can all breathe safely and reduce the number of preventable deaths to zero." - YATI Retreat Participant