Due to almost-comprehensive smoking bans across the West, cigarette firms are looking to greener pastures like the Asian countries where tobacco-money spinning is a much less restrained activity. Hence, this Tuesday, health professionals were warned to move towards outlawing tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Some 60 percent of the world's population and about 65 percent of young people live in Asia, making it a lucrative area for tobacco companies who have seen demand fall in developed countries.
AdvertisementYet despite most countries in the region having ratified a World Health Organisation convention on tobacco control, enforcement of advertising bans is patchy, allowing loopholes to be exploited, a conference here heard.
Doctor Pankaj Chaturvedi, a Mumbai-based cancer surgeon and member of the Action Council Against Tobacco (ACT) India lobby group, welcomed steps to ban smoking in public places and to outlaw direct advertising by tobacco firms.
But indirect, or "surrogate," advertising, promotion and sponsorship by tobacco companies for non-tobacco products or events was still a "very big issue" and needed to be tackled, he said.
The practice -- such as producing fashion lines under the company name -- keeps the tobacco product in the public mind and "legitimises" it, Chaturvedi told AFP at the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health.
Chaturvedi called implementation and enforcement of laws against tobacco advertising "dismal" in places like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Greater public awareness about the dangers of smoking was needed, while litigation against illegal tobacco advertising would act as a deterrent to firms trying to flout the law, he said.
"If an advertising company or manufacturer is spending billions on indirect advertising, then it has to be coupled with increases in sales," he said.