Until the beginning of the twentieth century, a basic smoker was a man. There was no official ban for women to smoke; however, a stigma did not let females to smoke in public. It was until the movement for equal rights progressed, and the tobacco industry launched the first campaigns to attract female persons to consume the products they produced. Fortunately for them, marketing campaigns in the United States of America became a success. With time, tobacco advertisements for women became more aggressive and expanded to the global market, outside the United States. As a result, today’s representatives of the tobacco industry tend to launch sex-targeted campaigns in order to increase the prestige of smoking for women.
Regardless of the global expansion of smoking, it is, for now, a well-known fact that it is a harmful habit for any human being. For a female body, smoking may have some additional implications, especially, for women who get pregnant and do not quit smoking. For instance, it is established that lung cancer in women in more frequent than that of men in the United States. Others negative effects of smoking on female health are numerous.
Reasons why women smoke
It is reasonable to take into consideration effort made by marketers f the tobacco industry while estimating the reasons for women to smoke. One century ago, a cigarette used to be a symbol of power, usually attributed to a male person. The primary reason why women supported the first female tobacco campaigns was that every woman wanted her personality to be as respected as male’s. Smoking was considered to be a masculine habit, that is why females wished to show that they could do that too. Today this is still one of the biggest causes why girls and women start smoking: to feel more powerful. Unfortunately, the inner feeling of power should combine with proven risks for one’s health. Those who find it difficult to give up smoking but want to reduce the adverse effects of traditional cigarettes tend to choose an e-cigarette (you can find out more).
Another cause of smoking follows from the first one: it is socialization. Smoking as a ritual helps people to build relationships, in particular, at a workplace. Coffee breaks during business meetings should be called for many workers “cigarette breaks” as many people tend to spend them in the circle of tobacco or e-cig consumers. This ritual helps people to get along during a conversation that would not get longer than lasts a cigarette. For this reason, many people working in corporations fail to give up smoking (a comic attempt to give up smoking in vain several times in a row by Marshall, a promising layer, was described in series How I Met Your Mother).
The problem of smoking concerns not only adults but also teenage girls because of false and widespread messages which, unfortunately, pass with them quite well. Some smoke their first cigarettes for integration in high school: tobacco remains the preferred tool of communication and socialization. E-vapor can be chosen as an alternative due to its flavor. However, most girls start to smoke because they want to lose weight. That is right, a cigarette has an anorectic effect which may explain the temporary weight gain during quitting. But the problem is that the tobacco industry seized this fear and turned it into a communication tool feeding the anxiety of women.
Research on women and smoking
The main preoccupation caused by frequent tobacco use is related to lung cancer. A study published on May 23, 2018 in the New England Journal of Medicine looked specifically at the link between lung cancer and tobacco for male and female smokers, analyzing all cancer diagnoses since 1995 for the entire population and data on the number of smokers since 1970. It established that the number of cases of lung cancer in women now exceeds that of men in the United States. However, the phenomenon leaves the scientists perplexed, because it does not seem to be explained by the number of smokers.
Over the last two decades, the number of lung cancers among men and women aged from 30 to 54 has decreased, but this decline has been more significant among men. In white women born in the mid-1960s and Hispanic women, the incidence even exceeded that of men. The proportion of female smokers remains lower than that of men who smoke cigarettes. How to explain this disparity? Scientists are making some assumptions. Perhaps the decrease in exposure to asbestos, another lung cancer cause, has benefited more men, often more exposed to it. It is also possible that the difference is related to the subcategories of lung cancer striking more women.
Although it is proved that women are more susceptible to lung cancer than male smokers, the reasons for that are not clear. For example, passive smoking is not stronger for women than for men. Women also consume fewer cigars than men. Nevertheless, for the authors of the study, as well as for female smokers, the lessons are crucial. First, because this work confirms that tobacco prevention campaigns must be intensified towards young women. Then, it calls for further action to understand why young women are more exposed to lung cancer than men. From that follows that more gender-sensitive research should be conducted to study implications of smoking a traditional cigarette and electronic cigarette for female persons.
Effect of smoking on women
In the United States of America, smoking is the leading cause of premature morbidity and mortality which could have been prevented. Here are some other effects of tobacco smoking on a female body, according to science:
higher risk of cancer, especially cervical cancer
- smokers suffer from more severe cramps and pains during the premenstrual period;
- fertility decrease: women who smoke are less likely to get pregnant;
- considerable harm on a fetus when a smoker is pregnant, higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome;
- smoking boosts aging processes: smokers tend to develop wrinkles earlier than those who do not consume traditional cigarettes;
- a higher risk of heart attack, as well as other heart diseases.
To sum it up, smoking is an incontestably harmful habit for any human being and women in particular. Problems that female tobacco smoker face include potential danger to their children, higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, and premature aging.
About the Author
Thanush Poulsen is a Danish columnist who is deeply concerned about public health and global diseases. That’s is why it is important for him to raise people’s awareness of these issues.