Children have the right to grow up free from the hazards associated with tobacco smoking. Tobacco smoke exposure can have detrimental effects on children’s health and development, from before birth and beyond. As a result of effective tobacco control policies, European smoking rates are steadily decreasing among adults, as is the proportion of adolescents taking up smoking. Substantial variation however exists between countries, both in terms of smoking rates and regarding implementation, comprehensiveness and enforcement of policies to address smoking and second-hand smoke exposure. This is important because comprehensive tobacco control policies such as smoke-free legislation and tobacco taxation have extensively been shown to carry clear health benefits for both adults and children. Additional policies such as increasing the legal age to buy tobacco, reducing the number of outlets selling tobacco, banning tobacco display and advertising at the point-of-sale, and introducing plain packaging for tobacco products can help reduce smoking initiation by youth. At societal level, health professionals can play an important role in advocating for stronger policy measures, whereas they also clearly have a duty to address smoking and tobacco smoke exposure at the patient level. This includes providing cessation advise and referring to effective cessation services. Conclusion: Framing of tobacco exposure as a child right’s issue and of comprehensive tobacco control as a tool to work towards the ultimate goal of reaching a tobacco-free generation can help accelerate European progress to curb the tobacco epidemic.What is Known:• Tobacco exposure is associated with a range of adverse health effects among babies and children.• Comprehensive tobacco control policies helped bring down smoking rates in Europe and benefit child health.What is New:• Protecting the rights and health of children provides a strong starting point for tobacco control advocacy.• The tobacco-free generation concept helps policy-makers set clear goals for protecting future generations from tobacco-associated harms.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Lung Foundation Netherlands, Dutch Cancer Society, Dutch Heart Foundation, Dutch Diabetes Research Foundation and the Netherlands Thrombosis Foundation (grant number 2.1.19.010).
© 2021, The Author(s).