The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the trends in some countries as “extremely worrisome” and asks governments to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and to eliminate tobacco smoke from all public and work places.

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said that tobacco use is “neither liberating nor is addictive and deadly”.

This year’s campaign theme of World No Tobacco Day 2010 is “Gender and Tobacco” with an emphasis on marketing to women. The campaign focuses on the damaging effects of tobacco marketing towards women and girls.

Although females only make up about 20% of the world’s smokers, WHO says there is compelling evidence that the “epidemic of tobacco use among girls is increasing in some countries and regions.”

In half of the 151 countries recently surveyed for trends in tobacco use among young people, approximately as many girls used tobacco as boys.

In the following countries more girls use tobacco than boys:

  • Bulgaria
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Cook Islands
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Uruguay

Women are a foremost objective for the tobacco industry in its attempt to recruit new smokers to replace those who will quit or die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco is the world’s primary preventable cause of death, killing over 5 million people annually – of which 1.5 million are female.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Dr Ala Alwan said:

We know that tobacco advertising increasingly targets girls. This campaign calls attention to the tobacco industry’s attempts to market its deadly products by associating tobacco use with beauty and liberation.

Frequently the threat to women is less from their being enticed to smoke or chew tobacco than from their being exposed to the smoke of others, particularly men. Globally, 64% of the 430,000 annual adult deaths from second hand smoke are among women, WHO informs.

Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, said:

By enforcing the WHO Framework Convention, governments can reduce the toll of fatal and crippling heart attacks, strokes, cancers and respiratory diseases that have become increasingly prevalent among women.

WHO urges governments and the public to demand a ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; to support implementation and strong enforcement of legislation to provide 100% protection from tobacco smoke in all public and work places; and to take global action to advocate for women’s freedom from tobacco.

The international launch of World No Tobacco Day 2010 will take place on 31 May in Tokyo, Japan. The launch will begin at 10:00 a.m. (Tokyo time) with a press conference at the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

A symposium about the theme of World No Tobacco Day 2010 will begin at 2:30 p.m. (Tokyo time) at the National Cancer Centre, which is an official WHO Collaborating Centre. A new WHO monograph, “Women, Tobacco and the Tobacco Epidemic”, will be presented there.

Source: World Health Organization (WHO)

Written by Christian Nordqvist