30 Nov 2015
The number of outlets selling tobacco was 2.5 times higher in both low- and lower-middle income countries than in high-income ones, reported the study, published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.
Data was collected between 2009 and 2012 in 16 countries by trained investigators in 462 communities during a kilometre-long walk.
Marketing to the young
“The tobacco industry uses marketing to drive the uptake of smoking among children and young people,” said one of the authors, Professor Anna Gilmore, director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.
Industry sales “are falling in high-income countries and so its future profitability depends on getting young people hooked on smoking in low-income countries. Our study reveals the extent of its effort to do this,” she added.
The study is the first to compare levels of tobacco marketing across a wide range of countries since 2005, when countries that signed up to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), were required to adopt strict tobacco control measures, including marketing bans.
Studies show that the more adolescents are exposed to tobacco marketing, the more likely they will smoke as adults. In many countries the vast majority of adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18. For example, 80 percent of smokers in the US start before they are 18, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Single cigarettes sold
The sale of single cigarettes, for example, is an important way of attracting children who can’t afford to buy a whole packet of cigarettes. Gilmore and her colleagues found that in low-income countries 64.2 percent of selected stores sold single cigarettes compared with just 2.8 percent in high-income countries.
Researchers also interviewed nearly 12 000 people asking them to recall whether they had seen tobacco marketing in different types of media, including on television, radio, posters, signage, online, in print or in the cinema, in the previous 6 months.
Overall, almost 10 percent of interviewees reported seeing tobacco marketing on at least five types of media in the previous six months, and 45 percent reported seeing such marketing on at least one type of media.