May 31, 2010
This year’s “World No Tobacco Day’ that is being observed on Monday, 31st May 2010 has kept the women in focus with the theme selected by the World Health Organization (WHO) being “Gender and Tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women.” It has been found that since the past few years women have been increasing taking up smoking for verities of reasons and are becoming victims of tobacco related diseases.
On 31st May each year, the WHO-a specialised agency of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) observes ‘World No Tobacco Day’ with a view to educate people all around the world about the health risks associated with the use of tobacco in any form and propose effective policies to reduce its consumption. According to an estimate, globally, tobacco use is the second cause of death after hypertension, and it is responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide. Realising the deadly effects of the use of tobacco, the World Health Assembly
initiated the observance of ‘World No Tobacco Day’ in 1987.
Tobacco has been processed from the leaves of Nicotiana plants and has been used in some medicines. The consumption of tobacco has been found commonly in the forms of smoking, chewing or snuffing. Tobacco has long been in use as an entheogen, that is, as a psychoactive substance used in religious, shamanic or spiritual context in the Americas.
With the arrival of Europeans in North America, tobacco quickly became popularized as a trade item and as a recreational drug. This popularization led to the development of the southern economy of the United States until it gave way to cotton. Following the American Civil War, a change in demand and a change in labour force resulted in the development of the cigarette. This new product quickly led to the growth of tobacco companies. Tobacco was introduced to Europe by Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal in 1559. Thus, the word ‘nicotiana’ as well as ‘nicotine’ are derived from the name of the French ambassador to Portugal-Jean Nicot.
Nicotine, the addictive substance found in tobacco leads to the development of tolerance and dependence. It is estimated that tobacco is being consumed in different ways by around 1.3 billion people, that is up to one third of the adult population of the world. According to the WHO around 5.4 million deaths a year are caused by tobacco. If the trend continues smoking is set to kill 6.5 million people in 2015 and 8.3 million humans in 2030, with the biggest rise in low-and middle-income countries. Every 6.5 seconds a current or former smoker dies somewhere in the world.
Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death in the United States and worldwide. Tobacco used in any form such as cigarettes or cigars, hand rolled tobacco, hookah, snuff, chewing tobacco leaves or gutkha can lead to health problems that can eventually turn fatal.
Medical research in the 1900s proved beyond doubt that tobacco use can trigger heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer, especially lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer. It also causes peripheral vascular disease and hypertension, all developed due to the exposure time and the level of dosage of tobacco. Besides, the higher level of tar content in the tobacco filled cigarettes causes the greater risk of these diseases. It has been found that cigarettes sold in developing nations have higher tar content, and are not usually filtered, potentially increasing vulnerability to tobacco-related disease in these regions.
The WHO has selected "Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women" as the theme for the “World No Tobacco Day” on 31 May 2010. Controlling the epidemic of tobacco among women is an important part of any comprehensive tobacco control strategy. There has been a sustained effort on the part of tobacco companies to target women customers as the number of their male consumers has been declining. The tobacco companies have launched marketing campaigns that represent cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable. This is to counter the public opinion that smoking is socially unacceptable and unhealthy.
The WHO is strongly opposing tobacco manufacturers who are targeting women in developing countries. According to the WHO, tobacco companies are encouraging women with aggressive campaigns. Tobacco manufacturers are using clever marketing strategies by linking their promotions with fashion, sports events and entertainment, wwhich eventually have disastrous consequences on women.
This is the startling statistics about the use of tobacco put forward by the WHO: 20 per cent of the world’s over 1.3 billion smokers are women; 7 per cent of adolescent girls and 12 per cent of adolescent boys smoke; almost as many girls use tobacco as boys in some countries; 10 million cigarettes are bought every minute globally; 1 in 5 teens smokes cigarettes on a global average; every 8 seconds, someone in the world dies of a tobacco-related illness.
It was usual for some western women to smoke cigarettes and some women from developing or underdeveloped countries to chew tobacco leaves until recent years. A couple of recent studies from India have shown that women smokers are on the rise in India. In India one out of every ten women consume tobacco in one form or the other and in Karnataka 44.7 per cent men and 4.8 per cent of women were found to be consuming tobacco in various forms. In the BPO sector and media industry there is an increasing number of women-smokers. The surveys showed 8 per cent of women in BPO smoked, and the percentage of smoking women in the media ranged from 5 per cent to 35 per cent. Different reasons have been cited for smoking by the women that include stress, boredom, peer pressure and having ‘the money to burn’ at a young age. An alarming fact that emerged from the studies was that the women were not aware of the serious health implications, especially reproductive health problems. Smoking can cause infertility and miscarriages besides harming the baby in the womb irreparably.
The WHO has urged Asia-Pacific countries to protect women and girls from aggressive efforts by tobacco companies to induce them to start smoking. In a statement prior to the “World No Tobacco Day” on 31 May, the WHO’s regional office in Manila in Philippines has warned that smoking among women and girls has been on rise in the Asia-Pacific. Bans on advertising are needed to protect women and girls from deceptive messages that portray smoking as glamorous or fashionable.On the “World No Tobacco Day” on Monday, 31 May 2010, governments, non governmental organizations (NGOs) and the general public come together to organize various activities to make the people aware of the serious health problems because of the use of tobacco in any form. Demonstrations and public marches with vivid banners, educational programs and campaigns are launched in different parts of the world to discourage people from using tobacco in any form.
Governments try to discourage smoking by imposing public smoking bans, increasing excise duty on tobacco products, promoting No Tobacco campaigns and ensuring tobacco products carry graphic warnings on the pack. According to a recent WHO report both men and women need “full information about the sex-specific effects of tobacco use.” This year the World Health Organization is highlighting the adverse effects of the tobacco industry targeting women and young girls.
On World No Tobacco Day 2010, and throughout the following year, the 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 the WHO's call, governments can reduce the number of fatal and crippling heart attacks, strokes, cancers and respiratory diseases that have become increasingly prevalent among women.
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