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Tobacco Companies Target Women in Developing Countries

Report claims it's an attempt to increase sale of products

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

THURSDAY, Aug. 7, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- In an attempt to increase sales of their deadly products, tobacco companies are targeting women in developing countries, says a report released this week at a major international tobacco conference in Helsinki.

Those efforts seem to be having an effect, as there is a reversal in the historically lower smoking rates among women in developing countries, who represent the largest untapped market for cigarettes, says the Tobacco Control Country Profiles 2003 report.

The report reviews tobacco production, trade, consumption, legislation and disease burden for 196 countries and territories. It was co-published by the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization and the International Union Against Cancer.

The report notes the burden of tobacco-related cancer is increasingly being shifted to developing countries. Currently, about half of the world's tobacco-related cancer deaths occur in developing countries. That's expected to increase to more than 70 percent by 2020, the report says.

Smoking caused an estimated 4.9 million premature deaths in 2000. That number is expected to grow to more than 9 million deaths a year by 2020.

Tobacco use around the world is much higher among men (47 percent) than among women (12 percent). But tobacco companies are using marketing and promotional strategies, capitalizing on Western images of independence, equality with men, glamour and sophistication to subvert traditional taboos against female smoking in developing countries, according to the report.

That female-targeted advertising includes false images of health, fitness, stress relief, beauty and weight loss/ management, the report says. Tobacco companies have produced cigarette brands specifically for women. Tobacco industry sponsorship of sports, beauty pageants, art and music events and women's organizations are being used to influence girls and women to use tobacco.

More information

Here's where you can find a full copy of the Tobacco Control Country Profiles 2003 report.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, Aug. 4, 2003
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