A World Health Organization (WHO) survey released in advance of World No Tobacco Day found that the percentage of female smokers worldwide is on the rise, thanks to aggressive campaigns linking tobacco to fashion, sports, and entertainment, Reuters reported May 28.
Of the 151 countries surveyed, half had either equal numbers of male and female teen smokers or larger numbers of young female smokers.
Worldwide, men account for 80 percent of all smokers, and 40 percent of adults who smoke are male, compared to just 9 percent of women.
Women, said WHO officials, are a growth market that tobacco companies are working to capture. “The tobacco industry is spending heavily on seductive advertisements that target women especially in low- and middle-income countries,” said Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s tobacco free initiative. “The advertisements try to dupe women in believing that tobacco use is associated with beauty and liberation.”
Among the industry’s marketing tools are pink cigarette packs — sold in Japan, where cigarette use has dropped precipitously among men in recent years — and an Egyptian cigarette box resembling a perfume container.
A total of 160 countries ratified the WHO treaty in 2003, but while the treaty advised a total ban on tobacco advertising and promotions, only 26 nations have complied.