Smoking unabated

Women in the US continue to puff one too many

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2001

women now account for 39 per cent of all smoking-related deaths each year in the us . The figure has more than doubled since 1965, according to a report on smoking among women, released by the us surgeon general David Satcher on March 27. Vigorous marketing by tobacco companies has stalled progress in smoking cessation by women and recent increases in smoking among teenage girls threaten to wipe out any progress that has been made in the last few decades in the us , says the report. It concludes that the increased likelihood of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive health problems among female smokers makes tobacco use a serious women's health issue.

Since 1980, nearly three million women in the us have died prematurely from smoking. The new report calls for stronger national and local efforts, particularly from women's groups, to push for the implementation of proven solutions to reduce and prevent tobacco use among women and girls.

The report outlines key solutions for preventing and reducing smoking among women. One, it suggests encouraging quitting for women of all ages. Quitting results in immediate health benefits for both light and heavy smokers, including improvements in breathing and circulation. The excess risk of coronary heart disease is substantially reduced after one or two years of smoking cessation. The increased risk for stroke associated with smoking is reversible after quitting smoking. When smokers quit, their lungs begin to heal and their risk of developing lung disease drops. Putting a stop to smoking cessation also improves quality of life and physical functioning.

Two, it suggests integrating science-based smoking cessation techniques into widespread clinical practice. This action would be as cost-effective as other medical interventions such as mammography and treatment of high blood pressure.

Lastly, it suggests enacting comprehensive nationwide tobacco control programs. Results from various us states show that science-based tobacco control programmes have successfully reduced smoking rates among women and girls.

Smoking prevalence decreased among women from 33.9 per cent in 1965 to 22 per cent in 1998. Most of this decline occurred from 1974 through 1990; prevalence declined very little from 1992 through 1998. The prevalence of current smoking is three times higher among women with 9-11 years of education (32.9 per cent) than among women with 16 or more years of education (11.2 per cent), says the study.

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