31 May 2010Describing tobacco as “ugly and deadly,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged women around the world to refrain from the substance even as they were increasingly targeted by advertisers who used gimmicks to associate smoking with beauty and gender liberation. “Tobacco is not stylish or empowering,” the Secretary-General stressed in his message to mark World No Tobacco Day, whose focus this year is tobacco and gender in a bid to discourage the trend in which more young women are being lured to start smoking. According to a recent study by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), the number of girls and boys who smoked was about equal in half in the 151 countries where the survey was carried out. More girls used tobacco than boys in some of the countries, including Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Cook Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria and Uruguay, the agency said. Although fewer than one in 10 women smoke, that still adds up to 200 million women around the world, according to WHO, which also reports that more than 1.5 million women die of smoking-related causes across the world every year. That toll could rise to 2.5 million women by 2030, the Secretary-General warned. “Governments everywhere must take action to protect women from tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, as stipulated in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” Mr. Ban said. Under the convention, governments are also obligated to protect women from second-hand tobacco smoke, which is responsible for the deaths of 600,000 people each year, nearly two-thirds of them women. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO, said in her message that women were a major target for the tobacco industry in its effort to recruit new users to replace those who quit or died prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. “By enforcing the WHO Framework Convention, governments can reduce the toll of fatal and crippling heart attacks, strokes, cancers and respiratory diseases that have become increasingly prevalent among women,” said Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative. Tobacco use is one of the main causes of preventable death. Overall, the habit kills more than five million people every year, according to WHO. The international launch of World No Tobacco Day 2010 took place today in Tokyo.