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WHO: New Smoking Products, Internet Pose Dangers for Tobacco Control

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - A Palestinian woman smokes a water pipe at a cafe in Gaza City, July 18, 2010.

FILE - A Palestinian woman smokes a water pipe at a cafe in Gaza City, July 18, 2010.

The World Health Organization warns that tobacco control efforts are being threatened by new smoking products and new online advertising opportunities that can reach young people around the world.

Such threats are to be addressed next week at an international meeting in New Delhi.

The head of WHO's Tobacco Convention Secretariat, Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, says it is easy for young people to download films and cigarette ads that appear online.

And, she tells VOA, the film industry from Hollywood to Bollywood exerts a strong influence on the behavior of young people.

"There are a number of studies showing a clear correlation between the social acceptability and taking up and consuming tobacco through the influence exerted by pop stars, by film actors and actresses, and by the film industry itself," Costa e Silva said.

FILE - A Saudi man uses his smartphone as he smokes water pipe at a cafe in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2016.

FILE - A Saudi man uses his smartphone as he smokes water pipe at a cafe in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2016.

A rating system to keep children from watching films advertising tobacco is one of the proposals likely to come up at the New Delhi conference.

In addition, WHO says there is an increasing need to regulate the use of smokeless tobacco and water pipes.

Tibor Szilagyi, an officer in the Tobacco Convention Secretariat, warns of the dangers of water pipes. Their use is common in the Middle East, he says, and growing in other regions.

"In the case of water pipes, we have the evidence … that it is more dangerous than regular cigarette smoking,” Szilagyi said. “They are saying that one session of water pipe tobacco use is equal to 100 cigarettes smoked."

Szilagyi warns that tobacco companies are coming up with harmful new approaches for marketing the product. For instance, he says, the tobacco used in water pipes now comes in a variety of aromatic fruity flavors.

Another gimmick, he says, is the floating water pipe, which can be inhaled while floating on the sea.

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