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Message of the WHO Regional Director, Dr Luis G. Sambo, on the occation of World No Tobacco Day 2010

Jun 1, 2010, 2:34 PM | Article By: Pa Momodou Faal

The use of tobacco kills and incapacitates millions of people in the most productive years of their lives. It also consumes family budgets, raises health care cost and slows down economic development. Most of these repercussions occur in low and middle-income countries.

The theme for World No Tobacco Day this year is "General and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women." There is evidence that tobacco marketing targeted at women is on the increase and is adding to the problem associated with exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

Women and men face different health risks from tobacco use on account of the social and biological differences between them. Gender inequities, poverty and weak economic conditions underline efforts to improve women's health.

In the African Region, recent surveys have shown that tobacco use among girls has reached levels comparable to boys, and that the use of tobacco products other than cigarettes is on the increase.

The tobacco industry has launched aggressive marketing campaigns increasingly targeting women and girls. It is portraying tobacco use as feminine and fashionable, and is using subtle measures to counter the public opinion that tobacco use is socially un acceptable and unhealthy.

Today, on World No Tobacco Day 2010, I invite all governments to protect women from tobacco marketing and from exposure to tobacco. In so doing, governments can greatly help reduce the number of women who fail victim to fatal and debilitating heart attacks, stokes, cancers and respiratory disease. Comprehensive tobacco control polices, gender- specific strategies and full participation of women at all levels of policy- making and implementation are effective interventions that can counter the tobacco industry’s vicious attempts to lure women and girls into tobacco use.

I call upon policy-makers to develop and enforce a comprehensive ban on direct or indirect advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.

A ban on smoking in all public places including work places and restaurant should also be imposed and enforced.

For their part, civil society and non-governmental organization should help educate women and girls on the dangers of tobacco to themselves, their families and their unborn babies and to sensitize men to the health hazards that seconds-hand smoke poses to people nearby especially women and children.

The general public should reject all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and promote smoke-free environments. Tobacco marketing targets women and second-hand tobacco smoke their health. With your support, policy-makers will be motivated to take measures to protect the population from the dangers of tobacco.

I would like to make a special call to all male smokers to avoid exposing their families and many others to second-hand smoke. Males constitute the vast majority of smokers. They should realize that their smoking habits pose considerable health hazards to others especially the women with whom they live or work.

May I take this opportunity to urge countries that are not yet Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to ratify the Convention or accede to it.

Effective and timely enforcement of the provisions of the Convention will contribute significantly to reducing tobacco use and improving the health of our populations.

Let us unite our efforts to protect women from the harm caused by tobacco. That will reduce suffering and save many lives.