Smoking among girls and young women in ASEAN countries: A regional summary

Type Working Paper - Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance
Title Smoking among girls and young women in ASEAN countries: A regional summary
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
URL Summary on Smoking Among Girls.pdf
There are important gender differences in tobacco use which the tobacco industry taps to
exploit an important market segment. Smoking prevalence among males is about four
times that of females (48% against 12%) globally.1
While global male smoking rates have
either reached a plateau or are in a slow decline, the prevalence of tobacco use among
women is, on the contrary, increasing.
The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) recently conducted the largest global survey
on tobacco use among adolescents aged between 13 to 15 years old. The results of this
important survey indicate that almost as many young girls are smoking as young boys in
many parts of the world.
This means that there is likely to be an increasing global epidemic among women that
will continue to rise until well into the 21st century. The ominous prediction is that by
2025, 20% of the female population will be smokers, up from 12% in 2005.2
Several factors are driving the increase in female smoking, especially in developing
The single most important factor may be the rise in spending power among
girls and women, which is making cigarettes more affordable. Social and cultural norms
that have traditionally prevented women in many countries from smoking are weakening,
rendering smoking among women more socially acceptable. It is also seen that greater
female autonomy and changes in women’s roles are associated with smoking uptake in
countries like the USA, prompting predictions of similar patterns in developing countries.
Tobacco companies have been targeting girls and women with expensive and alluring
marketing campaigns all over the world for decades. They promote smoking with images
of freedom, emancipation, slimness and glamour. Meanwhile, governments in developing
countries may not treat tobacco use among women as a priority health issue. They mostly
see tobacco use as a problem confined to men.
In addition to concern over rising smoking rates among women is the existing epidemic
of secondhand smoke. Already large numbers of women are passive smokers, especially
at home. Women must be addressed not only as potential future smokers, but as existing
passive smokers whose right to a smoke-free environment is violated on a regular basis.

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