Women Have a Tougher Time Quitting Smoking But Greater Reasons to Keep Trying

Smoking-related diseases kill more than 140,000 some American women annually, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Since 1980, some 3 million US women have died prematurely from smoking-related diseases.

The research shows that women who smoke are at higher risk for a number of serious health problems, including heart disease and lung cancer than women who don't smoke.

What's more, women smokers are 12 times more likely to die from lung cancer than women who do not smoke, and they're ten times more likely to die from bronchitis and emphysema.

While the lives of all women smokers are at risk, post-menopausal women and women on birth-control pills lead the pack in succumbing to smoking-related diseases that can go on to cause death.

Women and girls have been extensively targeted in tobacco marketing. In 1999, cigarette advertising and promotion was $8.24 billion, or about $22.6 million a day for marketing in the US.

Women: Consider These Risks of Smoking

If you're thinking of quitting, or you're not convinced that now is the "right" time, here are some health facts to consider: The health risks associated with smoking for both men and women are well known, and include a two-fold increase in risks of heart disease and of cancers of the bladder, stomach, and pancreas, a 10- to 20-fold increase in lung cancer, and a 10-fold increase in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Smoking also significantly increases risks of stroke and pneumonia. The increased risks of heart attack and stroke due to smoking are further exacerbated in women who also use oral contraceptives. Some studies have concluded that women may also have nearly double the risk of lung cancer of men.

  • Cancers: Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer among women — surpassing breast cancer. Some 68,000 U.S. women die each year from the disease and lung cancer mortality rates among US women have increased about 600 percent since 1950. Once rare among women, lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of female cancer death in the United States. It now accounts for 25 percent of all cancer deaths among women.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Smoking greatly increases women's risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, the risk for heart disease among middle-aged women who smoke is triple that of middle-aged non-smoking women.
  • Reproductive health: Women smokers are at higher risk for pregnancy complications, early menopause, infertility, miscarriage, pre-term delivery, stillbirth, infant death and having low birth-weight babies. Smoking also doubles a woman's risk of cervical cancer.
  • Children's health: Smoking increases the chances of sudden infant death syndrome, infant and perinatal deaths, learning disorders, attention deficit disorder and disruptive behavior. "If you bathe a fetus' brain in nicotine for nine months, it's clear there are profound effects," says Dr. Timothy McAfee, executive director for health promotion and disease prevention for Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound.
  • Hormones: Smoking causes women to enter menopause sooner and interrupts the menstrual cycle. "It's also well established that the aging process — skin and wrinkles — substantially faster in women who smoke," McAfee adds.
  • Appearance and oral-related conditions: Tobacco increases the risk for periodontal disease and oral cancers and also leads to chronic bad breath, teeth staining, increased tartar deposits, tooth loss and exaggerated wrinkling in the face.

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