Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stop Smoking: Not Just a Problem for US

I have traveled to many countries international and have heard the same refrain that people want to be like the people in the "West" and this is one of the influences to encourage people to smoke. The US has glamourized smoking and women have increasing embraced smoking around the world, not just in the United States.
The following is a report that will be delivered at the Conference for the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) along with international suggestions from The World Health Organization (WHO):

According to government reports submitted to CEDAW, in Iceland, Lithuania, Nigeria, Slovakia and the United Republic of Tanzania more girls now smoke than women. That is a worrisome trend. However, there is also good news. With stronger tobacco control measures put in place, Finland reports that the rate of smoking among females 15 to 16 years old has steadily declined. Similarly, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, fewer girls now smoke than adult females.

The implementation of strong tobacco control policies in most countries still lags far behind. The impact on women’s health is devastating. Smokers have gender-specific risks and are at an increased risk of lung cancer, breast and cervical cancers and coronary heart disease. Young women may think that they can easily quit during pregnancy. But research indicates it is harder for women to quit than men. Parental smoking endangers the health of newborns, contributes to infant death syndrome and middle-ear infection in young children.
Reversing this trend is possible. The World Health Organization’s Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 outlines a roadmap to success. The “MPOWER” package includes:
● Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies. Except for Yemen, all State parties reporting provide data on smoking prevalence for adult females and for girls. Finland, Iceland and the United Kingdom also monitor the impact of prevention policies. Iceland reports campaigns directed specifically to girls. The United Kingdom provides gender data by socio-economic groups and ethnicity. Nigeria, Slovakia, Yemen Lithuania and Tanzania must give more attention to improving gender-sensitive indicators.
● Protect people from tobacco smoke. Only 5 % of the global population is currently protected by comprehensive smoke-free legislation. Among the State parties reporting, the United Kingdom is the only one providing women with 100 % smoke-free policies, covering work places, restaurants and pubs/bars. Nigeria is heading in the right direction as are Slovakia and Yemen.
● Offer help to quit tobacco use. Services to treat tobacco dependence are fully available in only a few countries with 5 % of the world’s population. Nigeria and United Republic of Tanzania have cessation programs, but do they reach disadvantaged women?
● Warn about the dangers of tobacco. Misleading and deceptive terms such as “light” and “low-tar” are allowed in nearly 60 % of countries worldwide, even though scientific evidence shows that such products do not reduce health risks. Women often choose these products, under the false assumption that they are healthier. Stronger health warnings—including picture warnings—must be improved in all reporting States.
● Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Only 5 % of the world’s population live in countries with comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Yemen stands out as the only State party that has a complete ban on advertising that also includes the internet. As the internet increasingly sells to young people, all State parties should implement bans on internet advertising and sales.
● Raise taxes on tobacco. A 10 % price increase can cause a 4 % drop in tobacco consumption in high-income countries. It also brings badly needed new revenues to government coffers—monies that can be used in anti-tobacco campaigns. While some governments have steadily increased taxation for this purpose, Nigeria and Tanzania would benefit from increased taxation.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, ratified by more than 150 countries, supports the above measures. Together with the CEDAW, the WHO FCTC promises to help protect women and girl’s rights to health as a human right. A comprehensive tobacco control program is making progress in some countries. It is time to push harder for more speedy compliance with human rights standards and address the urgent public health issue of tobacco use among women and girls.

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