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Basketball star Ricky Rubio leads anti-tobacco programme for young smokers

As tobacco consumption increases to 25.6% in Catalonia, new campaign seeks to stop it at source


09 October 2019 12:11 PM


Oliver Little | Barcelona

There are almost 10,000 tobacco-related deaths every year in Catalonia. 8 out of 10 smokers will have started under the age of 20. For this reason, the Catalan Government has launched a new campaign, targeted at people from 14-20 years old to stop them smoking in the first place. 

The face of the programme will be Catalan basketball star Ricky Rubio, who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns and recently won the Bastketball World Cup with Spain.

''Sometimes children listen to us more than to their parents. As public figures, we are obligated to send a positive message for their health'', he confirmed in the presentation of the campaign through a videoconference between Phoenix and the Lluïsos de Gràcia, in Barcelona. 

The campaign, in collaboration with ''The Ricky Rubio Foundation'' bears the slogan ''Support'' and consists of four video clips, in black and white, in which Rubio manages four light-hearted challenges such as riding a mini tricycle. 

The message is consistent: ''If Ricky Rubio can get by on a tricycle, you can get by without smoking.'' The video can be seen on, where there is also advice on smoking. 

The campaign is widely available, primarily on social media sites in order to extend the sphere of influence over its target audience. 

Catalonia notorious for smoking

Catalonia’s smoking statistics certainly raise alarm bells - the average age that teenagers start smoking is between 14 and 15 years old, and by the time students graduate from secondary school, 40% of them have smoked. 

Young people between 15 and 25 on average consume between 5 and 6 cigarettes a day, and two thirds have tried to quit at least once. 

E-cigarettes also pose problem

When presenting the campaign, which is led by journalist Jordi Basté, Minister for Health Alba Vergés pointed to the use of electronic cigarettes among young people. 

Half of school students have tried an electronic cigarette as of 2019. In 2016, this figure was only at one in every five. 

''We have to fight this tendency and make it clear that it is completely false that these products are an effective way to stop smoking,'' Vergés stressed. 

Risks of smoking

The World Health Organization has reminded of the short-term and long-term effects of smoking. 

Short-term, it can lead to breathing problems, nicotine addiction and an increased susceptibility to alcohol, marihuana and even cocaine consumption.

Long-term consequences are equally as ominous, with studies showing cases of heart disease and strokes being caused by smoking from a young age, as well as risk of lung cancer - studies find that those who start smoking at 15 are three times as likely to die of lung cancer than those who start at 25. Finally, a third of all people that continue smoking will die prematurely because of tobacco. 

New addiction law to combat consumption increase

After years of a gradual drop in tobacco consumption, 2018’s figures according to the Catalonia Health Survey showed an increase from 24% up to 25.6%. 

The Catalan Department of Health is now working on a new law, which expects to ban smoking in outdoor sports facilities, at public transport stops and in private vehicles, among other measures. 

The law also plans to apply tobacco product regulations to e-cigarettes or heat-not-burn products, involving places where it is banned and advertising regulations. The law is expected to be approved at some point in 2020.

It is unclear however whether smoking will be banned on terraces, a topic that has gone under much scrutiny in recent months. 

When asked about this, Minister for Health Vergés appeared hesitant: ''The first thing that we have to do with the terraces issue is to enforce the normal regulations. But of course, we are definitely moving in this direction. At the end of the day it is about protecting individual and collective health.'' 


  • The movement is in collaboration with the star's “The Ricky Rubio Foundation”  (by Laura Fíguls)

  • The movement is in collaboration with the star's “The Ricky Rubio Foundation” (by Laura Fíguls)