This fact file focuses on the harm that tobacco marketing and smoke do to women.
About 200 million of the world's one billion smokers are women. The tobacco industry aggressively targets women in order to increase its consumer base and to replace those consumers who quit or who die prematurely from cancer, heart attack, stroke, emphysema or other tobacco-related disease. Girls and boys start using tobacco for different reasons, and tobacco use harms women and men differently. Approximately 1.5 million women die every year from tobacco use. Understanding and controlling the tobacco epidemic among women is an important part of any tobacco control strategy.
- About 200 million of the world’s one billion smokers are women : Far fewer women than men use tobacco. Globally, about 40% of men smoke as compared with nearly 9% of women. However, the epidemic of tobacco use among women is increasing in some countries. More research is needed to understand trends in tobacco use among women.
- As many girls as boys now smoke in some countries : A WHO survey of smoking trends in youths showed that in half of the 151 countries surveyed, similar numbers of girls and boys smoked. Evidence suggests that most of these girls and boys will continue to smoke into adulthood. Bans on tobacco advertising, as called for in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, could help to stop the increase in tobacco use among girls.
- Boys and girls start using tobacco for different reasons : Many more girls than boys smoke in the false belief that it is a good way to control weight. Low self-esteem is associated with smoking among girls, and available evidence from some developed countries shows that girls have lower self-esteem than boys. Tobacco control strategies must recognize that boys' and girls' decisions to start using tobacco are influenced by different cultural, psycho-social and socioeconomic factors.
- Every year, 1.5 million women die from tobacco use : Of the more than 5 million people who die every year from tobacco use, approximately 1.5 million are women. Most (75%) of these women live in low- and middle-income countries. Unless urgent action is taken, tobacco use could kill up to 8 million people every year by 2030, of which 2.5 million would be women.
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- Women are one of the biggest targets of the tobacco industry : The tobacco industry gears richly-funded marketing campaigns towards women through advertisements that draw on gender stereotypes and falsely link tobacco use to concepts of beauty, prestige and freedom. The industry actively targets women because comparatively few women currently use tobacco, and women are increasingly able to afford tobacco.
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