Sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of its Tobacco Free initiative, the day’s theme is a Tobacco-Free Youth.

The campaign focuses on tobacco manufacturers’ international attempts to get young people to start smoking. The way the WHO hopes to fix this problem is a global ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. Is this a lofty goal? Perhaps, but a strong link between advertising and youth smoking has been proven. Additionally, in many countries free distribution of tobacco products to children is legal.

The global average age to start smoking is 18, with nearly ¼ of those beginning before age 10. The WHO states that the younger a person is when they start smoking, the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users.

National studies have found a 16% decline in tobacco consumption after tobacco advertising bans. Partial bans on tobacco advertising have been found ineffective as the industry can switch their ads to alternative media outlets.

A list of international activities celebrating World No Tobacco Day on May 31st can be found on the WHO’s Web site, where you can also register your own event.