PAHO/WHO urges total bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in the Americas

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PAHO/WHO urges total bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in the Americas
Tobacco kills one million people every year.
Tobacco kills one million people every year.

On World No Tobacco Day, May 31, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is calling on countries throughout the Americas to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Such bans are one of the most effective ways to reduce consumption of tobacco, which kills some one million people every year in this hemisphere.

Only five countries in the Americas have total bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The first to implement such a ban was Panama (in 2008), followed by Colombia (2009), Brazil (2011, but regulations are pending), Chile (2013) and Suriname (in June 2013). Seven other countries in the region (Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Uruguay) have broad restrictions, and the rest have minimal or no restrictions at all.

“Partial restrictions have proven to be ineffective,” said PAHO Assistant Director José Teruel. “So have voluntary agreements that the tobacco industry has committed to in many countries. Only total bans—in all media, at all times and for all audiences—are effective.” In countries that have introduced such bans, consumption has declined an average 7 percent.

Studies show that about a third of youths who begin using tobacco do so for reasons related to tobacco marketing, and globally, 78 percent of youths ages 13 to 15 are regularly exposed to some form of tobacco advertising, promotion or sponsorship. In the Americas, 16 percent of youths in this age group use some form of tobacco.

“Much of tobacco advertising is aimed at the psychological needs of adolescents, such as popularity, peer acceptance and positive self-image,” said Adriana Blanco, PAHO/WHO regional advisor on tobacco. Such advertising “creates a false perception in them that smoking satisfied those needs.”

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which has been ratified by 29 of 35 countries in the Americas, commits signatory countries to adopt complete bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship within five years of the convention’s entry into force in each country. By the end of 2013, around 20 countries in the Americas will have passed the deadline for complying with this provision.

Every year on May 31, WHO, PAHO and partners from around the world celebrate World No Tobacco Day to raise awareness of the health risks of tobacco consumption and to promote effective policies for reducing consumption. The theme of World No Tobacco Day 2013 is “Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.”

In the Americas, 16 percent of deaths among people 30 and older are attributable to tobacco, according to the WHO Global Report: Mortality attributable to tobacco, 2012. Together with Europe, the Americas have the highest percentage of deaths attributable to tobacco, well over the global average of 12 percent.

Tobacco is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer. Half of smokers will die from a disease caused by tobacco, and on average will lose 10 years of life.

Tobacco is also a leading risk factor for noncommunicable diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.

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