#YTCLS22: Building a new generation of leaders

On 17 November 2022, the first ENSP Youth Tobacco Control Leadership School has come to an end and new paths for the tobacco control community have been opened. After 3 intensive days in Warsaw, Poland, a group of young people has learned essential information and gained strong skills to put to good use in advocating for a tobacco-free world.

The event was planned in close collaboration with the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA, as well as with local organisers and colleagues from Poland: Collegium Civitas, National Research Institute of Oncology, and Foundation „Smart Health – Health in 3D” and other distinguished European partners, such as the International Youth Health Organization (YHO), and brought together around 30 international participants representing the Public Health and Youth sectors.

For the Opening Session, all young participants had the chance to hear motivational speeches from different high-level institutional representatives, including the President of ENSP, the Polish Ministry of Health, WHO FCTC, or the University of Southern California.

In her message, the Head of the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC, Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo, encouraged the youth to take action right now, as they are one of the most important groups targetted by the tobacco industry: “Young people are more important to this than almost any other group.” In addition, she explains the importance of combining youth efforts, strengthening their networks, and making their voice even louder in the fight against tobacco.

A special moment was dedicated as well to the commemoration of Dr Mateusz Zatonski’s achievements. Participants together with organisers spent a few minutes remembering and celebrating the rich life and inspiring professional accomplishments of our dear colleague and friend, Dr Mateusz Zygmunt Zatoński, who suddenly passed away earlier this year following a short illness from a very rare cancer, at the young age of 34. On this note, ENSP President Prof Florin Mihaltan presented the life of Mateusz and offered the post-humous award, serving as recognition of his efforts to strengthen the tobacco control community.

The programme of this school was built in a way to provide participants with the necessary theoretical background, and afterward to offer them concrete situations through the different workshops, where they had the chance to use the information freshly received, and combine it with their professional work and personal abilities. For this reason, ENSP intended to offer national impressive perspectives (such as the cases of Poland, Sweden and Turkey), but also to pass from marketing, communication and social media approaches, to the environmental impact, to the role of civil society, advocacy, and the importance of correctly mapping all stakeholders. 

With the strong presence on the market of novel tobacco products and their continuous development into colorful and tasteful devices, but also with the well-known traditional tobacco products, the youth must be skilled to recognise, call out and act against all tobacco industry’s tactics in their way of selling deadly products.

#YTCLS22: Building a new generation of leaders

The main goal was to empower youth into becoming new role models for setting up set up healthy environments, healthy trends, and healthy mindsets for their peers, and ultimately to eliminate tobacco use for the generations to come. This is why one of the main conclusions of the event was that youth-oriented programmes and policies are created by motivated young people eager to make a change.

With the interdisciplinary workshop, highlighting and offering new perspectives on the major tobacco control challenges, participants assessed the needs of young people in Europe and they consider themselves now ready to pass and apply this knowledge to activities initiated right back in their home country. 


“Greetings from Italy. I’m Doctor Teresa Bonarrio, a resident student in Hygiene and Preventive Medicine at University Sapienza in Rome. Just attended the 1st Youth Tobacco Control Leadership School, which took place in Warsaw, Poland. In my career, I’ve often attended this kind of workshops, and I couldn’t feel more satisfied on this one level. Parallel sessions were perfectly organised to keep the attention high on the participants. We had the possibility to interact with other professional figures at different levels and to learn some information we didn’t gain already in the past, about tobacco control as well as in terms of skills needed and possibilities to act in the field of prevention. From my side, I particularly loved the “brainstorming sessions”, especially because, during these interactions, the best of participant contributions become something real, something concrete from whom, in the next future, participants could be able to cooperate to realise new innovative interventions towards this wonderful ideal of Tobacco Free Generation.”

“It was a pleasure to be one of the first participants of the Youth Tobacco Control Leadership School. I congratulate ENSP on launching this very important program, I hope it will find a way to continue for future generations as well. It is really needed in order to respond to major challenges in tobacco control nowadays, and it is an excellent chance to gain and share knowledge and broaden our network. I was particularly impressed by the “peer to peer” workshops, I really believe that we as a youth network can achieve a lot, not only in the field of public health but in general in promoting positive solutions for the entire Europe.”

Jasmina Cekric – PROI (Bosnia&Herzegovina)

“Hello, I am Darius Lotrean, a 17-year-old student in final grade at the Colegiul Național ,,George Coșbuc” Cluj-Napoca in Romania. I participated at the YTCLS 2022, which was my first workshop of this kind, I have attended. I was very excited to participate and eager to learn everything I could. Now that I look back to it, the Workshop not only enhanced my leadership and advocacy skills significantly, and it sensibilized me to the challenges, successes and threats in tobacco control and smoking prevention, but it was also a great opportunity to interact with partners and friends from across the world. Everything was amazingly well organized, and I feel truly lucky and honored to have participated in this amazing Workshop!”

“The ENSP youth conference gave me insight into my fellow youth advocates’ challenges in other EU countries. I conclude that our decision-makers must be more involved in protecting young people towards the tobacco industry’s unethical methods. We encounter problems with leaders not following the WHO FCTC; we especially confront disagreement and disorientation regarding the new nicotine products targeting young people. We are the ones facing how it concerns our kids, adolescents, and young people. My biggest takeaways from the conference are that young people are crucial to tobacco control efforts. We offer fresh perspectives, understand the resources and needs of our communities and are not afraid to try new approaches.”

Louise Johansson – A Non Smoking Generation & NCD Child (Sweden)
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