Faced with falling sales in richer nations, the tobacco industry has increasingly marketed their product in the developing world, where restrictions on promoting smoking are more relaxed, a new study said Tuesday.
The study, which looked at tobacco marketing in 462 communities spread across 16 countries, was published by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, a journal created by the UN agency, but the contents of which do not reflect WHO's views.
Data on cigarette promotion was collected since 2005, when a global convention on tobacco controls, including marketing bans, came into force for nations that had signed on.
The study found that "people living in poor countries are exposed to more intense and aggressive tobacco marketing than those living in affluent countries".
Report contributor Anna Gilmore, director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, said the tobacco industry's marketing is designed to drive up smoking among children and adolescents.
The tobacco industry's "sales are falling in high-income countries and so its future profitability depends on getting young people hooked on smoking in low-income countries," she said in a statement.
Those findings were based in part on interviews with 12,000 people over multiple years who were asked if they had seen any tobacco marketing in any media over the last six months.
Researchers "found that tobacco advertising was at its most intense in the low-income countries studied (India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe), where they observed 81 times more tobacco advertisements per study community than in the high-income countries (Canada, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates)," the statement said.
Tobacco also proved much easier to buy in poorer nations, which had two-and-a-half times the number of outlets selling cigarettes compared to the richer countries surveyed.
The report called for stronger enforcement of the restrictions which came into force in 2005 -- known as WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control-- especially in the developing world.
"There has been substantial progress in the past decade, but we must now recommit ourselves to our global tobacco control efforts so that everyone, all over the world, is protected from the tobacco epidemic," said Dr Armando Peruga, programme manager of the tobacco free initiative at WHO.