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Jun 1, 2005 | As part of this year’s World No Tobacco Day (5/31/05), where the theme was "Health Professionals against Tobacco," the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) invited more than 520 health professional and support organizations with over 700,000 members in 30 countries to support tobacco control programs and to press for the ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) by nations throughout the Americas.

The goal of PAHO is to significantly reduce tobacco use, which now claims more than 1,000,000 lives annually in the Americas, by enlisting health professionals as advocates for governmental policies to help prevent and treat addiction. The Declaration of the Americas which each of the 520 groups was asked to sign contains a pledge for healthcare organizations to reject tobacco industry support, make themselves tobacco-free, promote the inclusion of tobacco control topics in their conferences and curricula, advocate strong tobacco control policies, and support their patients in quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke.

At the same time PAHO is mounting its effort to spread information globally on the extreme dangers associated with tobacco use and secondhand smoke, startling new evidence has emerged as to the lengths cigarette companies were (and still are) willing to go to in order to acquire as many new smokers as possible. There has already been much written about how the tobacco industry targeted young people through creative advertising campaigns and promotional giveaways. Now, the very same thing has come to light with respect to the targeting of women.

Only this week, health researchers revealed that a review of some 7 million internal documents obtained under a 1998 court settlement show tobacco companies created cigarette designs and types to attract women. The industry clearly made every effort to determine what might make cigarettes more palatable to women. As a result, "slim" and "light" brands were marketed along with brands specifically named with women in mind. Consideration was even given to marketing cigarettes that contained appetite suppressants so they could be promoted as weight control products.

The study of the marketing strategies demonstrates that the tobacco industry sought to associate cigarettes with concepts such as stress reduction, weight control, and good health. Marketing strategies included linking smoking to appealing attributes like female liberation, glamour, success, and thinness. Low tar and nicotine ("light" brands) even sought to win over women who were reluctant to smoke because of health concerns.

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