Tobacco firms take aim at Bangladeshi, Asian women

DHAKA, April 29, 2010 (AFP) – Bangladeshi chest doctor Kazi Saifuddin Bennoor has seen many misleading cigarette advertisements, but the one that suggested smoking could make childbirth easier plumbed new depths. Advertisements telling smokers they are smarter, more energetic and better lovers than their non-smoking counterparts are a familiar sight across Bangladesh — something unimaginable in most other countries.

One in a rural area, Bennoor remembers, said that “if a lady smokes, her baby will be smaller and it will be easier to deliver, the labour will be less painful”.

“These are very ruthless advertisements,” said Saifuddin, an associate professor at Bangladesh’s National Hospital for Chest Diseases.

The promotion is being linked to an alarming rise in tobacco use in the impoverished South Asian country, particularly among women and the young — a trend repeated across many developing countries, anti-tobacco groups say.

The World Health Organisation warns that tobacco companies are targeting women in developing countries as a new growth market and Dhaka-based doctors treating lung diseases report they are seeing more female patients.

Around 28 percent of adult Bangladeshi women no