Dr. Ong Lynn
The Tobacco Free Generation (TFG) concept (2010) is a birth-year based approach to prevent children from ever picking up smoking (1). It was presented to global audiences at the 2012 World Conference on Tobacco or Health held in Suntec City. TFG has since blossomed into a vibrant social movement, working to achieve zero smoking incidence through inspiring tobacco prevention education and youth leadership (2, 3).
I joined in 2013 as a medical student, organising youth summits. Primary and secondary school students created videos on TFG concept (4, 5), engaging their peers through their common generational identity as the non-smoking millennium generation. This positive messaging appeals to youths more than harping on harmful effects of smoking (6).
By focusing on non-addicted youths, our non-antagonistic approach towards smokers also creates a unifying effect in society, as witnessed by public support in our 2013-2015 TFG Rides, in which I was the event photographer (7).
This attracted the interest of global leaders including Mr. Joet Garcia, then Mayor of Balanga City in 2016, who shared the TFG concept with his people. (8) With massive support garnered through school orientations, community leadership meetings and Guinness World Record Breaking Dance event (9), Balanga City in the Philippines became the first city in the world to legislate banning sale of cigarettes to those born after 2000 (10). Even after legislation, their youth leaders continue to engage through social media (11). This highlights the importance for leadership to come on board to institutionalise the TFG approach for sustainability, scalability and greater value.
Having presented TFG at Abu Dhabi in 2015, South Africa in 2018 and Malaysia in 2019, I worked with local youths, who contextualised TFG knowledge to their local language to teach their peers even better (12). This is much more invigorating than smoking cessation counselling in my work as a junior doctor, where I have seen patients suffering from smoking-related diseases, many who attempted but failed abstinence multiple times.
I urge our political and education leaders to come on board to create a uniquely Singaporean TFG education ecosystem. Let us work together to make Singapore the first country to create the Tobacco Free Generation. Achieving zero smoking and vaping initiation is now possible!
(1) Khoo D, Chiam Y, Ng P, et al. Phasing-out tobacco: proposal to deny access to tobacco for those born from 2000Tobacco Control 2010;19:355-360. https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/19/5/355
(6) Shahwan S, Fauziana R, Satghare P, Vaingankar J, Picco L, Chong SA, Subramaniam M. Qualitative study of Singaporean youths’ perception of antismoking campaigns: what works and what does not. Tob Control. 2016 Dec;25(e2):e101-e106. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2015-052692. Epub 2016 Mar 4. PMID: 26944686; PMCID: PMC5284335. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26944686/