Beautiful lies in cigarette ads

Women must resist the temptation and just say no.

It’s what medical experts hope more and more women would do as tobacco companies find cool new ways to lure them into lighting up.

After the number of male smokers hit a peak, tobacco companies have turned to “beautiful lies” to lure women into smoking, experts said during an event Wednesday.

“Women should be on high alert and recognize the great hazards behind tempting packages and nice sounding advertisements,” said Zhi Xiuyi, a professor at the Lung Cancer Treatment Center, Capital Medical University based in Xuanwu Hospital, Beijing.

The meeting was organized by the ThinkTank Research Center for Health, a non-governmental institution founded in Beijing in 2001.

Female smokers are exposed to much greater health risks than men, Zhi said, adding that both lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases strike smoking women 13 times more often than non-smoking women.

Other studies have shown smoking causes low fertility, fetus abortion, infant deformity, slow growth of babies and low fertility health among their off-spring, Zhi said.

But the panelists warned advertisers are using many ways to trick women into thinking that smoking is cool, sexy and that it provides freedom.

“Fashion, freedom, weight reduction are common slogans they promote,” said Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the center. “They’re all beautiful lies. Smoking brings no charms but harms,” she said.

Besides, in attempt to shield the dangers, tobacco companies use words like “low-tar” or “light” and other phrases on packets. But low-tar tobacco has been proven to be just as harmful as regular tobacco.

In 2002, China had 350 million smokers, one third of the world’s smoking population, according to the most recent statistics. And 3.1 percent of women in China smoked although some informal surveys showed that trend was growing.

According to a survey released at the meeting, 11.3 percent of 1,250 women smoke in China.

The survey was conducted in 46 public places such as restaurants, Internet cafes and bars in Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan Province by a local health-consulting center.

“Without further government intervention, it may easily pass 15 percent in the years to come,” Li Xinhua, an official from the Ministry of Health, said a week earlier.

In addition, women should avoid secondhand smoke.

According to a survey by the ThinkTank, 66 percent of some 5,000 polled women have suffered from secondhand smoke at home and 80 percent at the work place.

However, 63 percent make an effort to get someone at home to put out a cigarette, 30 percent do it at the office and 18 percent in public places.

Forty-four percent said it’s no use and 40 percent said they are afraid to cause trouble while others think it’s not their business.

“It’s wrong. Secondhand smoke is dangerous as well,” Zhi said. He said that female victims accounted for 64 percent of the deaths from smoking related diseases, citing 2009 WHO statistics.

“We should learn to bravely stand out and politely ask those smokers to stop,” said Zang Yingnian, a well-known tobacco control expert.

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