Jamaica - tobacco industry targeting women in poor, developing countries..

July 21, 2010 - Thousands of young Jamaican girls are lighting up as they become what the World Health Organisation (WHO) describes as "victims of an enticing tobacco advertising campaign". There are also fears that thousands more young girls could become hooked on cigarettes unless measures are implemented to counter the campaign by the tobacco industry.

The WHO and the local National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA - Executive Director: Mr. Michael Tucker, ncda@cwjamaica.com) have both warned of the dangers facing young girls in developing countries, such as Jamaica, and have called for immediate action.

The World Health Organization (WHO) put cigarette advertising aimed at women at the center of its annual World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2010. The organization says the tobacco industry is unscrupulous in its attempts to market cigarettes to young women in general, especially in the developing world.

Douglas Bettcher, the director of the WHO's tobacco free initiative, has stated that the prevalence of deadly diseases among smokers, such as cancer, emphysema, and heart disease, means the tobacco industry is "always looking for new populations, such as young women, to light up and support their profit motives." On the group's
Web site claims that "women are the main targets of the tobacco industry's efforts to win new consumers."

There is certainly more room for growth in the market for female smokers, statistics show. Across the world, just 9 percent of women and 40 percent of men currently smoke. Meanwhile, a WHO study of 151 countries shows 7 percent of adolescent girls smoke, compared with 12 percent of adolescent boys.

Female smokers are catching up to male smokers, according to statistics. In several countries - including, in Europe, Bulgaria, Croatia, and the Czech Republic - the number of female tobacco users outweighs the male users, the WHO study showed.

WHO takes aim at tobacco ads targeting women, Author: Jennifer Abrahmson, Editor: Rob Turner, DW-WORLD-DE, 5/31/2010.
Dr Ellen Campbell Grizzle, director of information and research at the NCDA, believes there is an urgent need for the country to coalesce around an anti-tobacco campaign designed to combat the current efforts of the tobacco industry to recruit new users in developing countries. "This is a market where girls are being seduced into smoking," she said.

Campbell Grizzle told The Sunday Gleaner that a great deal of the evidence on which the WHO relies comes directly from the tobacco industry and includes minutes of high-level meetings that have been leaked. There is a method to the marketing mechanism, as Campbell Grizzle explained. She said females have traditionally been a deterrent to males engaging in smoking. Now, it appears the tobacco manufactures are getting more girls to smoke, which they hope will eventually get more boys hooked on the habit. In the NCDA's latest quarterly publication issued last Monday, it was noted that the WHO pointed to evidence that tobacco advertising was increasingly targeting girls.

"Jamaica is in the crosshairs of that international marketing campaign (because it is) a poor, developing country with a lot of women," Campbell Grizzle told The Sunday Gleaner. "Stealthily, Jamaica women are being persuaded to join the ranks of tobacco-smoking converts. We must work together to correct this negative trend," said the council's quarterly update.

The update also revealed that the favourability ratings of smoking among Jamaican female adolescents had increased, mirroring the trend noted for males. "An increasing number of both males and females reported that 'boys and girls who smoke have more friends and are more attractive'. The findings show that Jamaican women are less likely to be a restraining factor over tobacco use at this time," read another section of the NCDA publication.

The spike in the number of young women taking a puff has narrowed the gap between male and female smokers. As the risk factors increase, Michael Tucker, executive director of the NCDA, believes the nation's young women need to be targeted in the country's anti-tobacco programmes.

A global youth tobacco survey conducted in 2006 among Jamaican teenagers classified 18 percent of females as current smokers of tobacco products. A similar survey five years earlier had put the female smokers at 14 percent. "This rise of four per cent over 2001 is of major concern," said Campbell Grizzle.

The NCDA also pointed out that an analysis of the clients seen in its treatment and rehabilitation centres indicated that tobacco was the onset drug for 24 percent of all clients who sought treatment.

Tucker added that 80 per cent of lung cancer in women was linked to smoking.

In the meantime, Chris Brown, Carreras' corporate and regulatory manager, said that Carreras did not target underage girls with the marketing of the smokes it distributes in Jamaica. "We do not market and distribute our products to minors. Our marketing and distribution of cigarettes is also not gender specific. We are a responsible tobacco company and we market and distribute our products to adults who have taken the decision to smoke," he said.

Carreras, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco Company (BAT), is the exclusive local distributor of cigarette brands Dunhill, Matterhorn, Craven A and Rothmans, with approximately 99 percent of market share. Musson Jamaica, which distributes Marlboro and Green brands, accounts for the remaining one percent of the market.

Reference: Targeting girls - Tobacco companies trying to get more females smoking as a ploy to increase smoking worldwide, Tyrone Reid (yrone.reid@gleanerjm.com), Sunday Gleaner Reporter, Jamaica-Gleaner.com, 7/18/2010.

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Jamaica signed (24 September 2003) and ratified (7 July 2005) the
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Treaty.