Equal rights for women have been slow to emerge in poorer countries and even today there’s a lot of work to be done. But some progress has been seen, where many women are running their own small businesses, are not forced into marriage or servitude and have equal rights under the law.
Research conducted by the University of Waterloo in Canada looked at 74 nations and saw that in first world nations, where women have equal rights (at least under the law) women are smoking at close to the same rates as men. Although worldwide numbers show that men do smoke more than women, the more successful a nation and its women are, the more women smoke. And this has health experts worrying about the rising tide of female smokers in developing countries.
Men in countries like China and Indonesia smoke up to five times more than their female counterparts but as these countries add rights to women, the numbers of female smokers are going up. The World Health Organization, which considers smoking to be one of the most serious global health epidemics, wants to educate and inform women in developing countries before they see smoking increasing to the point that it has in wealthy countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia and many European states.
Advertising targeted to women in the Western world in the 80s and 90s showed women that they “earned” the right to smoke, just like men, such as the “you’ve come a long way, baby” campaign. Nowadays, tobacco advertising in developing countries where women are seeing more success are beginning to target them in the same way, in order to get them to buy cigarettes and become daily smokers. To compare these women to the successful women of the Western world is an easy way to trick women into believing that their new-found rights also include the “right” to smoke and that it’s a sign of success.
By making these tactics, like advertising, illegal, the WHO believes that the success of women in developing nations can be promoted healthfully, rather than in Western nations where successful women are dying of smoking related illnesses (heart, stroke, lung conditions, etc.), in huge numbers.