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IP/02/734 Copenhagen, 17 May 2002 uefa teams up with eu on fight against young people smoking

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Copenhagen, 17 May 2002

UEFA teams up with EU on fight against young people smoking

What have Thomas Helveg, Paolo Maldini, Carsten Jancker, Rui Costa, Emile Mpenza and Ebbe Sand in common with dozens of other top European World Cup players? They say "No". No to cigarettes. Just before the start of the World Cup, UEFA teamed up with the European Union for an anti-smoking campaign targeting young people between 12 and 18 years old. The cooperation agreement will be signed by Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne and UEFA President Lennart Johansson at the World Cup warm-up match between Denmark and Cameroon in Copenhagen this Friday, 17 May. The first of several television spots with well-known football players will be shown for the first time at the press conference just before the kick-off of the match. The Danish football association, represented by its President Allan Hansen, and the Danish Ministry of the Interior and Health, represented by Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, will participate in the event in support of the campaign.

Feel free to say no

Eight out of ten people who smoke start when they are between 12 and 18 years old. EU Commissioner David Byrne said: "Let's face it: a young boy or a young girl who starts smoking and gets hooked by the nicotine no longer has a real choice. That's why we want young people to feel free to say no to tobacco while they still have the choice." "Feel free to say no" is the slogan of the EU anti-smoking campaign. The official campaign launch on 31 May coincides with the World anti-smoking Day and the World Cup kick-off.

Players who speak out against smoking with a clear "no!" in the first campaign spot which will be presented at the press conference are: Thomas Helveg (Dane), Paolo Maldini (Italian), Carsten Jancker (German), Didier Dheedene (Belgian), José Mari (Spaniard), Ebbe Sand (Dane), Martin Stranzl (Austrian), Jens Jeremies (German), Nico Van Kerckhoven (Belgian), Filippo Inzaghi (Italian), Gerald Asamoah (German), Harald Cerny (Austrian), Rui Costa (Portuguese), Marco Van Hoogdalem (Dutch), Emile Mpenza (Belgian) and Massimo Donati (Italian).

Further players for upcoming spots will include Zidane (French), Raul (Spaniard), Luis Figo (Portuguese), Shay Given (Irish) and Damien Duff (Irish).

A World Cup Planner created for young people will be also presented on 17 May. It contains information on World Cup teams and matches as well as the anti-smoking campaign.

European football and its players act as a model for young people across Europe. The commitment, the willingness to perform and the skills of players are positive characteristics with which young people like to identify themselves. Strong statements against smoking by European football stars will support young people in their decision not to smoke. Moreover, UEFA plans to call on the national football associations to support the EU anti-smoking campaign to help combat smoking among children and adolescents.

Tobacco smoking by young people

The years between 12 and 18 are crucial for the rejection or adoption of a smoking habit. According to recent findings of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the age of young people experimenting with tobacco is decreasing while the number of young smokers is increasing in all EU Member States. In Denmark, 18% of 11 year olds, 41.5% of 13 year olds and 66% of 15 year olds have smoked tobacco, according to a study ("Health and Health behaviour among young people in Europe", HBSC survey 1997-98, WHO Regional Office for Europe). One quarter (24%) of the 15 year old kids is smoking weekly in Denmark. Every second adolescent smoker will eventually die from the negative effects of smoking. Every year, 500 000 people in the European Union die prematurely from smoking-related diseases.

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