GENEVA: The World Health Organization is calling on national governments to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in an effort to protect young people from the dangers of smoking.

WHO claims that the more youngsters are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to take up the habit.

It says tobacco firms glamorize smoking by associating cigarettes with energy and sex appeal.

Declares WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan: "In order to survive, the tobacco industry needs to replace those who quit or die with new young consumers.

"It does this by creating a complex 'tobacco marketing net' that ensnares millions of young people worldwide, with potentially devastating health consequences.

"A ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is a powerful tool we can use to protect the world's youth."

In a WHO study of the 13-15 age group in schools worldwide, more than 55% of students reported seeing ads for cigarettes on billboards in the previous month, while 20% owned an item with logo of a cigarette brand on it.

The organization's director of its Tobacco Free Initiative, Dr Douglas Bettcher, argues that comprehensive ad bans do work and can reduce smoking "by up to 16% in countries that have already taken this legislative step".

Among those nations are Norway, Canada and Finland, where studies have shown a moderate reduction in tobacco consumption.

"Half measures are not enough," adds Bettcher, "when one form of advertising is banned, the tobacco industry simply shifts its vast resources to another channel."

Data sourced from Adweek (USA) and; additional content by WARC staff