The World Health Organization (WHO) selects "Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women" as the theme for World No Tobacco Day 2010, which falls on 31 May. Controlling the epidemic of tobacco among women is an important part of any comprehensive tobacco control strategy. World No Tobacco Day 2010 aims to draw particular attention to the harmful effects of tobacco marketing towards women and girls. It highlights the need to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in accordance with the constitutions or constitutional principles of various countries.
On World No Tobacco Day 2010, and throughout the following year, WHO will encourage governments to pay particular attention to protecting women from the tobacco companies' attempts to lure them into lifetimes of nicotine dependence. By responding to WHO's call, governments can reduce the toll of fatal and crippling heart attacks, strokes, cancers and respiratory diseases that have become increasingly prevalent among women. Tobacco use could kill one billion people during this century. Recognising the importance of reducing tobacco use among women, and acting upon that recognition, would save many lives.
Women have been extensively targeted in tobacco marketing, and tobacco companies have produced brands specifically for women. Several examples of tobacco ads and promotions targeted to women indicate that such marketing is dominated by themes of both social desirability and independence, which are conveyed through ads featuring slim, attractive, athletic models. Defining a self-image is an important developmental task during adolescence. Attractive images of young smokers displayed in tobacco advertisements are likely to "implant" the idea of initiation of smoking behaviour in adolescent minds as a means to achieve the desired self-image. Therefore, it is not surprising that adolescents generally notice and respond to messages in tobacco advertising and promotion.
Women comprise 20% of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers, as per WHO Report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2008. Tobacco use causes a wide variety of cancers, including cancer of the lung, mouth, and the esophagus, and puts tobacco users at the risk for heart attacks, strokes, emphysema, and other life threatening diseases. Women smokers are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, osteoporosis and other conditions of the reproductive system.
REGIONAL FACT SHEET ON GENDER AND TOBACCO, 2010