Tobacco Advertisements Targeted on Women: Creating an Awareness among Women

By Kaleta, Dorota; Usidame, Bukola et al. | Central European Journal of Public Health, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Tobacco Advertisements Targeted on Women: Creating an Awareness among Women


Kaleta, Dorota, Usidame, Bukola, Polanska, Kinga, Central European Journal of Public Health


SUMMARY

It has been always believed that men smoke more than women, but the trend of smoking in women is increasing nowadays. In some countries there are even more female smokers than male smokers. This is a major health risk because women are present and future mothers, and increasing number of smoking women will enlarge the number of exposed children. Relatively few women are aware of gender-specific health risks, including cervical cancer, osteoporosis, poor pregnancy outcome and early menopause. Tobacco related diseases are on the rise in women, considering the fact that more women now die of lung cancer than breast cancer. Tobacco companies have invented various ways to target women through tobacco advertising despite the various bans. This inevitably leads to the increase in female smoking rates. There are various recommendations from the World Health Organization which include the need for governments to pay particular attention to protect women from the tobacco companies' attempts to lure them into lifetimes of nicotine dependence and to take up counter advertisements against the tobacco companies.

Key words: tobacco advertisements, women, smoking, World Health Organization

INTRODUCTION

The global prevalence of tobacco use is substantially higher in men (47%) than in women (12%), reflecting the traditionally low prevalence of female smoking in many developing countries. However, the tobacco industry has targeted women in promotional strategies, calculating that the large population of women who do not use tobacco represent a vast untapped market for tobacco (1). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), women comprise about 20% of the world's more than 1 billion smokers. The female population in developing countries will rise from the present 2.5 to 3.5 billion by 2025, so even if the prevalence remains low, the absolute numbers of women smokers will increase. This makes women a target group for the tobacco industry (2). About 250 million women in the world are daily smokers (about 22% of women in developed countries and 9% of women in developing countries). In addition, many women in south Asia chew tobacco. Cigarette smoking among women is declining in many developed countries, notably Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA, but this trend is not found in all of those countries. In several southern, central and eastern European countries cigarette smoking is either still increasing among women or has not shown any decline (3). Additionally in some Nordic and western European countries there is little or no difference between male and female smoking rates or as it is in Sweden the percentages of daily smokers (among age group 16-84 years) is even higher among women than men (16% vs. 12% in 2007) (4).

Table 1 presents data of daily cigarette smoking for selected European countries. The results of a national survey conducted in Poland, in 2007, indicated that 23% of women smoked daily, 3% were occasional smokers, 10% were former smokers and 64% never smoked (5). Additionally, data from 2000 indicated that tobacco-smoking has caused 69,000 deaths in Poland of which 12,000 (17.4%) were in women and 6,000 (50%) of them were premature deaths (at age 35-69 years) (5-6). In the early 1980s, the frequency of smoking increased particularly among women, to about 30% for daily smokers, driven, among other things, by the introduction of cigarette vouchers and the rationing of tobacco products. In 1982, the percentage of smokers was the highest in the country's history and one of the highest in Europe. That percentage reached 70% among young and middle-aged men, and 50% in similar-aged women (5). Between 1990 and 1998, the percentage of girls smoking cigarettes increased among 13-year-olds from 3% to 10% and among 15-year-olds from 16% to 28%. It seems that the phenomenon was at least partially related to the mass advertising of cigarettes aimed primarily at adolescent girls and young women (5). …

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