New Zealand women targeted by tobacco companies

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Despite the passing of the Smoke-free Environments Act in 1990 restricting advertising and sponsorship of tobacco, tobacco companies are still targeting women with their marketing according to a team of researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington and a Maori health research group Whakauae Research for Maori Health and Development.

We have analysed a relatively unknown area; the marketing of tobacco to women in New Zealand, and particularly Maori women, 50% of whom still smoke… Smoking is more serious for women than men before middle age because it has negative health impacts on children; perinatal mortality, low birth weight and premature birth are just some of these effects… Also theres the known impact of second-hand smoke on such conditions as asthma and sudden infant death syndrome, says Dr Heather Gifford from Whakauae.

The study shows there are at least eight ways that tobacco companies continue to try to persuade women to take up or continue smoking despite the current law.

  • Female oriented cigarette brand names such as Cameo Mild, Vogue Bleue and Topaz, are displayed in shops.
  • Fashion magazines imported into New Zealand still have cigarette advertising directed at women with women smoking including brands available in New Zealand.
  • Using a variety of female-orientated packaging design and colours along with use of extra slim cigarettes such as Vogue Bleue, and Dunhill Essence.
  • Continuing use of deceptive terms such as light and mild in online advertising counter to a ruling by the Commerce Commission in 2008. Also the use of words like subtle and mellow to describe former light brands. Female smokers are more likely to use light brands and this may delay quitting by providing what the consumer believes are less harmful alternatives.
  • The availability of menthol cigarettes as women are more likely to smoke menthols. Menthol smokers are often under the misperception that these cigarettes are less harmful to health.
  • Women have lower average incomes, and are attracted to lower priced tobacco, price discounting and roll-your-owns.

The researchers conclude that the advertising and sponsorship restrictions in the current law are inadequate and need to be expanded. One of their recommendations is to follow the lead of Australia and regulate for plain packaging of all tobacco products.

Given the ongoing examination of tobacco issues by the M?ori Affairs Select Committee, now is an excellent time to further advance new laws for tobacco control… We argue for a full phase out of tobacco sales over 10 years but improved marketing controls would be a valuable supplementary measure, says Dr Gifford.

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