London, Jun 1: The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging governments to ban tobacco advertisements to protect the world's youth from taking up the habit.
According to the UN agency, the more people are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they will take up the habit. The statement, released to mark World No Tobacco Day, said a ban on tobacco advertising is a powerful tool to protect the world's 1.8 billion young people living in developing countries. The organisation said only 5 percent of the world's population was covered by comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
According to WHO, current restrictions are not enough to the young generation, which is being targeted through the internet, magazines, films, concerts and sporting events. The number of female and adolescent smokers has tripled in the last decade in Russia, which has few anti-smoking laws.
However, in Canada, where smoking and cigarette advertising has been severely restricted, numbers of smokers are at their lowest in 40 years. Recently, the UK announced plans to ban cigarette vending machines and packets of 10 to prevent children and young people smoking. The organisation blamed manufacturers for using increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques to ensnare young people, particularly girls in poorer countries.
According to the agency, most smokers take up the habit before the age of 18, with almost a quarter of those before the age of 10. In a WHO worldwide survey of 13 to 15 year olds, 55 percent reported seeing billboard advertisements for tobacco, while 20 percent owned an item with a cigarette brand logo.
Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative, said a complete ban was essential to ensure young people were protected from dangerous messages. "Half measures are not enough," BBC quoted, him, as saying.
"When one form of advertising is banned, the tobacco industry simply shifts its vast resources to another channel. We urge governments to impose a complete ban to break the tobacco marketing net," he added.