Women targeted by tobacco industry

Woman smoking

The tobacco industry has long targeted women with its aggressive advertising strategies in an attempt to get them buying cigarettes. As far back as 1928, the industry suggested getting women to smoke was like having a “new gold mine” in one’s front yard. Veronica Riemer from the World Health Organization (WHO) has this report.

Duration: 2’49″

NARR: Women make up about 20% of the world’s one billion smokers. However, tobacco use among women is increasing in many countries. Women are a major target for the tobacco industry, which is recruiting new users to replace current users who will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. Nancy Brinker, WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control.

Brinker: The tobacco epidemic killed 100 million people in the 20th century and threatens to kill one billion more in the 21st – more than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV combined. Tobacco and women’s health are directly linked, since tobacco is especially devastating to women and young girls. Because women are the centre of our communities, the ones who do the teaching mostly, childrearing, and nurturing we are right to make them the centre of our work in public health.

NARR: The increasing number of women starting to smoke poses a growing threat to their health, especially in the low-income countries that can least afford to cope with the consequences. Ms Margaretha Haglund is a member of the executive board of the International Network of Women Against Tobacco.

Haglund: It was not until the 1920s that the tobacco industry actually started to target women and the President of American Tobacco said in 1928, “it would be like opening a new gold mine right in our front yard if women started to smoke”. And we can talk about the tobacco industry’s four “As” to get women hooked on tobacco. It is to make cigarettes smoking: aspirational, desirable and fashionable, acceptable, socially and culturally, accessible, available and affordable and of course addictive.

NARR: Dr Armando Peruga works for the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative. He tells us how the tobacco industry specifically targets women.

Peruga: They do it many ways, by the designing products that are attractive to women, by using special shapes of the boxes that resemble some perfume boxes, by using colours especially pink or using flavours that will make the tobacco more palatable to women. They will also do it by linking their products to values that women aspire to such as independence and liberation, and they will place their products in movies and TV shows and have your favourite stars smoke on camera which has proved to be very effective in starting smoking in youth, both female and male.

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December 2017
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