Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Saturday, 31 May 2008 10:55 UK

Call to ban all tobacco adverts

An anti-smoking activist dresses up as an executioner in Budapest, Hungary, ahead of World No Tobacco Day which is held annually on Saturday 31 May.
World No Tobacco Day is held annually on 31 May

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on governments to ban all tobacco advertising to help prevent young people taking up the habit.

It accused manufacturers of using increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques to ensare young people, particularly girls in poorer countries.

The UN agency says the more they are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely people will start smoking.

The appeal was issued to mark the WHO's World No Tobacco Day.

The organisation said only 5% of the world's population was covered by comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

It says current restrictions are not enough to protect the world's 1.8bn young people, who are targeted through the intenet, magazines, films, concerts and sporting events.

'Dangerous messages'

In Russia, which has few anti-smoking laws, the number of female and adolescent smokers has tripled in the last decade.

However, in Canada, where smoking and cigarette advertising has been severely restricted, numbers of smokers are at their lowest in 40 years.

The UK has recently announced plans to outlaw cigarette vending machines and packets of 10 to prevent children and young people smoking.

The WHO also accused manufacturers of continuing to attract young people by "falsely" associating cigarettes with "glamour, energy and sex appeal".

Most smokers take up the habit before the age of 18, with almost a quarter of those before the age of 10, according to the organisation.

In a WHO worldwide survey of 13 to 15 year olds, 55% reported seeing billboard advertisements for tobacco, while 20% owned an item with a cigarette brand logo.

Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative, said a full ban was necessary to ensure young people were shielded from dangerous messages.

"Half measures are not enough," he said.

"When one form of advertising is banned, the tobacco industry simply shifts its vast resources to another channel. We urge governments to impose a complete ban to break the tobacco marketing net."

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