Entertainment Thu, 29 May 2003

Films and Fashion Industries to fight smoking

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set aside 31 May to draw global attention to the effects of smoking and the disease burden associated with tobacco use.

This year's World No-Tobacco Day focuses on the role of the fashion and film industries in fuelling the tobacco epidemic and urges players in these industries to stop being used as vehicles of disease and death.

Health experts say the depiction of tobacco products and users of the product as glamorous, sexy or attractive through the medium of film and fashion poses a great threat to millions of lives, especially the youth, who are attracted by the glamour and pomp associated with tobacco.

Health authorities say the film and fashion industries could not be accused of causing cancer but they could be held responsible for promoting a product that destroys and kills.

The WHO has already sent a message calling on the entertainment industry and in particular the world of films and fashion to stop supporting a product that kills and rid films of their tobacco-promoting role.

There are arguments that if tobacco products users appeared to be macho, sophisticated, rugged, sexy or sporty it was because of the marketing strategy used.

From the colour of the packaging to the parties and concerts where the product is promoted and given away free of charge, tobacco appears to be glamorous and the in-thing for the youth.

Selling tobacco products is all about creating an image. From sporting events to the clothes and fashion accessories that bear pictures of tobacco products to the beautiful people who use it on screen, stage and at glamorous venues serve as a snare for unsuspecting young people.

It is not surprising that powerful images of tobacco use helps shape the dreams and fantasies of the young and old. Young people become easily attracted to people, who smoke.

A survey conducted in 2000, by the Health Research Unit of the Ghana Health Service among 1,917 Junior Secondary School students across the country showed that over 17 per cent of the boys thought boys who smoked looked attractive.

While over 40 per cent thought boys who smoked had more friends. While smoking is declining in some industrialised countries, they are increasing especially among the youth in developing countries, according to WHO sources.

Given the huge potential for influencing the public, especially the young, the film and fashion industries are fertile grounds for the tobacco industry's marketing tactics. These industries must, therefore, join in the fight to cut down on the tobacco epidemic, responsible for four million deaths each year.

The disease burden associated with the tobacco smoke is enormous and the tragedy and waste of the tobacco epidemic makes the implementation of effective tobacco control measures imperative.

Non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and stroke, closely linked with smoking are on the rise in most developing countries including Ghana.

Even for non-smokers the dangers associated with tobacco use is still present because of the substantial scientific evidence which shows that non-smokers, who inhale second-hand smoke suffer from many diseases and are never save anywhere.

To date there is still no legislation in Ghana that prohibits smoking in public places. People are exposed to second-hand smoke under daily life conditions: at homes, work and everywhere.

It is expected that the adoption by all the 192 members of the WHO of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Controls aimed at curbing tobacco related deaths would scale up efforts directed at stemming the tobacco epidemic.

The convention requires countries to impose restrictions on tobacco advertising; marketing promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products, while establishing new labelling and clean indoor air controls and strengthening legislation on tobacco smuggling.

Source: Eunice Menka