Thu, 03 Jun 2010 Feature Article

Women: Tobacco's future face

Women: Tobacco's future face

(CNS): As tobacco consumption rises among women and youth, warning sign has gone out to the world on World No Tobacco Day (31 May 2010), also from the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) foundation Thailand.

This year 2010, also marks the "Year of the Lung" campaign and the studies show that 50% of all deaths from lung disease are linked to tobacco use. "Currently, we know that 9% of Thai women are using tobacco and that over 1 million are actually exposed at home to harm from second hand smoke" said Anne Jones, Technical adviser of The Union.

"Also smoking or tobacco use rates are very high among 13-25 years old and this is really a major concern in Thailand" she added.

Anne insisted that "smoking or using tobacco is not only undermining their health and their fertility, but it also harms their family whether they have children or not. Children will be adversely affected and harmed by exposure to tobacco use. I don't think parents want their children to grow up and become tobacco users."

She is also asking women and young girls to say no to tobacco, get some help if already addicted and realize that the glamorization of tobacco use is only a marketing tactic of tobacco industry who don't care at all about the health of population and only care about making money.

Anne's views are supported by Dr Prakit Vathisathokit, Executive Secretary of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Thailand, who said that, "there are more than 1,000 million people over the world using tobacco, and 200 million out of that are women. According to the studies done in 151 countries, female teenagers have higher rate of tobacco use than in the past, with tobacco use rates around 7% or 12% in some countries which is the same rate as of the male teenager. While the numbers show that tobacco use in men is still the same, there is a possibility that rates of tobacco use in women might be higher in future."

"In the past, the anti-tobacco campaign were mainly focused on men so women are now becoming the new important target group for tobacco industry, and industry has developed its strategy, improved the tobacco product with new taste like fruit or printed label showing that it's 'mild' or 'light' cigarettes, and released new design and brand name to lure the new customer and communicate that it is charming and smoking will help to reduce weight" said Dr Prakit Vathisathokit.

"Moreover the industry has also initiated women and youth to a new way of smoking which is called 'hookah' or 'baragu' through deceptive tobacco promotion in films, online social networks and internet which allow people to access tobacco easier" said Dr Prakit Vathisathokit.

"The Union has been strongly recommending the Thai Government to do more by comprehensively banning all the remaining forms of tobacco advertising so that tobacco use is not seen as something as glamourous or something that is normal" said Anne Jones.

"Tobacco use is really something that is not normal because if you become a tobacco user you are going to get disease and you are going to die early and that's not something that anybody want. So I think the government can reinforce a lot of these health promotion messages through the health promotion foundations, through tough legislation and supporting messages to encourage tobacco user to quit smoking and encourage young people not to take it up in the first place."

It has been praiseworthy, according to Dr Chai Kritiyapichatkul, National Tobacco Control Officer for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Thailand, that this year there were three Thai people who have received the WHO's Director-General's World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) Award. The Thai award winners include: Mr Taweesin Satitrattanacheewin, Editor, Thai Post Newspaper; Professor Dr Somsri Pausawasdi, Thai Health Professional Alliance Against Tobacco; and Dr Suthat Rungruanghiranya, Assistant Professor, Srinakharinwirot Universtiy Medical Center, in Thailand.

"Thailand is regarded as the tobacco control leader in this region that made some very good progress in reducing the harm caused by tobacco use but you can never become complacent on tobacco control because the tobacco industry is very creative, very well resourced and very determined to sell many products as they can. So it's up to the government to ensure that the health of population, the health of their people is put first and ahead of the commercial interest of the tobacco industry" Anne Jones remarked.

Hope sanity prevails and governments around the world, put people before profits and protect young people and women from tobacco use. (CNS)

Jittima Jantanamalaka - CNS
(The author is the Managing Director of Jay Inspire Co. Ltd (JICL), a Fellow of CNS Writers' Bureau, Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI) and produces radio programmes in northern Thailand. Website:, Email: [email protected] )

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