This years observance of World No Tobacco Day focuses on Gender and tobacco, with an emphasis on marketing to women.
Although fewer than 1 out of 10 women are smokers, that still adds up to an estimated 200 million women around the world. Moreover, that number could grow, since the tobacco industry is spending heavily on advertisements that target women and associate tobacco use with beauty and liberation.
According to a recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of girls and boys who smoked was about equal in half the 151 countries surveyed. This finding is even more worrisome since young people who smoke are likely to continue in adulthood.
Evidence indicates that the prevalence rate of tobacco use among women is on the rise in some countries. Governments everywhere must take action to protect women from tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, as stipulated in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The Convention also calls on Governments to protect women from second-hand tobacco smoke especially in countries where women feel powerless to protect themselves and their children. As WHO data show, of the 430,000 adults who die each year from second-hand smoke, nearly two thirds are women.
Around the world, more than 1.5 million women die each year from tobacco use. Most of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Without concerted action, that number could rise to 2.5 million women by the year 2030.
We must turn back the global tobacco epidemic. On World No Tobacco Day, I urge all Governments to address this public health threat. Tobacco use is not stylish or empowering. It is ugly and deadly.