The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging governments to ban all tobacco advertising. The aim is to protect the world's youth from becoming addicted to a product WHO says could cause one billion premature deaths this century. The U.N. organization issued the call on World No Tobacco Day. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from WHO headquarters in Geneva.
The World Health Organization says recent studies prove the more young people are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to start smoking and the less likely they are to quit.
Despite this, WHO officials say only five percent of the world's population is covered by comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
The Director of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative, Dr. Douglas Bettcher, says that leaves 95 percent of the world's population exposed to the unbridled marketing activities of the tobacco industry.
"The tobacco industry continues to spread its deadly product as the vector of the tobacco epidemic," he said. "The tobacco company spends tens of billions of dollars to market its products and tens of billions of dollars a year around the world to particularly develop and study and market to young people, especially in developing countries."
The World Health Organization says most people start smoking before the age of 18, and almost a quarter of those before the age of 10. Because of this, it says tobacco companies target young people by falsely linking the use of tobacco products with qualities such as glamour, energy and sex appeal.
Dr. Bettcher says the tobacco industry markets its product in movies, on the Internet, in fashion magazines, music concerts and sports events to get young people hooked onto their product.
He says the industry has even converted young people into walking billboards. Wherever tobacco companies cannot advertise, he says they put their logo on boots, shirts and other personal items.
He says young women and girls are particularly at risk of being targeted and ensnared by these aggressive marketing techniques.
"We have recommended total advertising bans. WHO recommends these because enforcement of a complete ban on advertising promotion and sponsorship will definitely reduce consumption," he added. "Evidence shows that countries that put into place and enforce them and make sure that all the companies adhere to these bans, will enjoy a 16 percent drop in consumption over countries that do not impose such bans."
The World Health Organization (WHO) says 5.4 million people a year die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses, with 70 percent of these deaths in developing countries. It expects this figure to rise to 8.3 million deaths by 2030.
And if current smoking trends continue, WHO warns up to one billion people could die from tobacco-related diseases this century.