19th of July by Emma Feeny, Katie Dain, Cherian Varghese, George A Atiim, Dag Rekve & Hebe N Gouda. From BMJ, “Protecting women and girls from tobacco and alcohol promotion”. 

Following the trend that sees a change in gender norms, an aggressive industry marketing, and continuing population growth in low-and-middle income countries, what happens is that the number of women and girls consuming tobacco and alcohol is likely to rise substantially in the coming years.

The consequence it brings is a rise in the burden of chronic or non-communicable diseases and injuries, for public health, service delivery, and sustainable development.

Furthermore, given that tobacco and alcohol use and currently falling in many high-income countries, producers have identified women and girls pertaining to low-and middle-income countries as growing market to target. For instance, an alarming situation regards 123 countries, where the prevalence of girls using tobacco is higher than the prevalence of adult women. In some countries, such as Mozambique and Argentina, it is also higher than the prevalence of adolescent boys using tobacco. Although the proportion of men who drink is much higher than the proportion of women who do so, the global gap between male and female drinkers is becoming smaller and smaller.

When it comes to marketing and targeting, it is important to consider that sex specific factors, such as hormones, genetics, anatomy, physiology, and organ function, affect our response to tobacco and alcohol, along with rates of intoxication, dependency or damage. In fact, women typically have a higher proportion of body fat and water an fewer enzymes to metabolize alcohol.

When women are regularly confronted with gender power imbalances which limit their opportunities and choices, a vision of equality can be appealing. Tobacco and alcohol companies have exploited this effectively, using gendered marketing that links alcohol and tobacco with female empowerment and other aspirations. An analysis of alcohol marketing in India and a number of African countries, for example, found that women were targeted through associations with empowerment, Western lifestyles, wealth, and sexual success.

Also, in line with other advertising targeting women, the tobacco and alcohol industries use numerous, often contradictory, gendered norms and behaviors in their quest to attract new consumers. While the narrative is one of female empowerment, it is often underpinned by a hypersexualized portrayal of women’s bodies and the use of gender stereotypes, such as a preference for sweeter flavors, or desire to conform to a feminine ideal.

Key messages

  • Women and girls in low-and-middle income countries are exposed to aggressive marketing tactics by tobacco and alcohol industries, which exploit gender inequalities and associate their products with women’s empowerment
  • A rise in the consumption of alcohol and tobacco among women and girls will lead to an increase in non-communicable diseases globally, both in the short term and among generations to come
  • A rise in non-communicable diseases has important implications for public health and the achievement of global development goals
  • Governments and other stakeholders should tackle gender and other inequalities while improving health to protect women and girls in low-and-middle income countries from tobacco and alcohol promotion

Find the full article in the following link: https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1516. 

Post Navigation