An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Women Smokers and risks to their health

A lot of women have started smoking. In fact the percentage of women amongst the new smokers is increased tremendously in the last decade.

And that increase shows up as the increase in smoking related deaths amongst women. The percentage of women amongst the smoking related deaths has gone up to 39% of the total such deaths.

And there could a lot of problems associated with women from smoking.. probably more so for women than men – as the 2001 report “Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General” from US Surgeon General said.

Also check out the fact sheet from Australia on Women Smokers.

“Women not only share the same health risk as men, but are also faced with health consequences that are unique to women, including pregnancy complications, problems with menstrual function, and cervical cancer.”

Dr. Satcher said that since 1950, there has been a 600 per cent increase in women’s death from lung cancer. Approximately 90 per cent of lung cancer deaths in women are attributable to smoking, he said. In addition, women now represent 39 per cent of smoking related deaths, the causes of which include lung cancer, other cancers, and cardiovascular disease, among others.

This is the second surgeon general’s report devoted to women and smoking. The first report, released in 1980, found that smoking-related diseases among women were becoming an epidemic. Dr. Satcher said the latest report confirms that the epidemic has become “full blown.” The 1980 endeavor was a follow-up to the surgeon general’s landmark report on smoking published in1964.

Note on India: According to this report from Economist – India has the 3rd highest percentage of women smokers (out of total population) in the world! This is as per the American Cancer Society. Bangladesh is the highest.

Now, a Norwegian team has found from its study that women run a greater risk of heart attacks from smoking than men do.

Their study found that the men on average had their first heart attack at age 72 if they didn’t smoke, and at 64 if they did. Women in the study had their first heart attack at age 81 if they didn’t smoke, and at age 66 if they did.

That works out to eight and 15 years, respectively, for men and women. After adjusting for other heart risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, researchers found that the difference for men was about six years for women about 14 years.

The question obviously that is important is: Why do women smoke? Here is some research input:

New research points to “fear of fat” as a primary reason for keeping the cigarette habit. The study (appearing in Addictive Behaviors) investigated 587 women and found that smokers “endorsed a thinner preferred body shape and scored lower on body satisfaction than never-smokers”.

Unfortunately smoking may also produce wrinkled skin, thinning hair, cracked fingernails, yellowed teeth and terrible breath.

The research also showed that women smokers have a skewed body image compared with those who never smoked. When looking at silhouette pictures of different body types – the smokers chose an ideal body shape that was slimmer than the non-smokers chose, and further from how they perceived themselves as looking.

How much of the linking to losing weight with smoking is true for women empirically? Cynthia Pomerleau suggests the following major points against this notion:

* One in four women who quit smoking will gain less than five pounds,
* Another two out of four will gain five to 15 pounds.
* Only one in four women who quit will gain 15 pounds or more.

So while gain will be not that much, the downside is tremendously high!

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