The United Nations health agency today called on governments to impose a ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to deter young people around the world from taking up smoking.
A day ahead of World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing its campaign this year on the young, citing statistics that show most people start smoking before the age of 18 – and some are hooked by the time they turn 10.
“The tobacco industry employs predatory marketing strategies to get young people hooked to their addictive drug,” said Douglas Bettcher, Director of the agency’s Tobacco Free Initiative.
“But comprehensive advertising bans do work, reducing tobacco consumption by up to 16 per cent in countries that have already taken this legislative step.”
Dr. Bettcher said only a total ban was acceptable because “when one form of advertising is banned, the tobacco industry simply shifts its vast resources to another channel,” such as the movies, the Internet, fashion magazines or music and sports venues.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan described this industry strategy as “a complex ‘tobacco marketing net’ that ensnares millions of young people worldwide, with potentially devastating health consequences.”
Recent studies have indicated that the more young people are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to take up smoking, according to WHO. A global survey found that over half of 13- to 15-yearolds reported seeing billboard advertisements for cigarettes in the past month.
Advertising is becoming more aggressive in the developing world, where bans on tobacco marketing are less likely. Around the world, girls and young women are also an increasing target of the industry.