Tobacco companies courting young women

Fair sex targeted

Tobacco companies courting young women

About 80 percent of the world’s estimated 1 billion smokers are men, but more women are picking up the habit in some countries as flavored products and glossy feminine packaging cater to them. Nationwide surveys in Bangladesh, Thailand and Uruguay found that females aged 15 to 24 were more aware of tobacco marketing than older women, suggesting that advertising is directed at them.

The data were the first batch to be analyzed from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, a large sampling of 14 developing countries that hopes to provide a clearer picture of how tobacco is used and promoted. The results published on Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U S Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, focus on gender differences regarding use and attitudes toward tobacco.

“Tobacco companies target women and girls with aggressive and seductive advertising that exploits ideas of independence, sex appeal, slimness, glamour and beauty,” Johanna Birckmayer, director of international research at the US based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in an e-mail.

WHO has estimated that the rate of female smokers worldwide will double by 2025, from about 9 percent in 2007.

In some countries, tobacco sponsorship and advertising is rampant. Last month, an Indonesian cigarette company was forced to drop its sponsorship of former American Idol Kelly Clarkson’s concert in Jakarta following outrage from fans and tobacco-control groups.

On Thursday, WHO called on countries to strengthen tobacco controls to protect young girls and women from exposure and addiction to tobacco, which kills an estimated 5 million people every year globally.

The survey was conducted in 14 countries in 2008-2009 with funding from the Bloomberg Initiative to reduce tobacco use. Results will be announced later for China, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam. The Philippines, Brazil and Egypt have already posted their results, but the CDC has not officially published the data.

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