Women and Smoking: From Marketing Victims to Smoke-Free
By Sherrie Dixon Williams, MD, MHS
Medical Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Pulmonary Function and Smoking Cessation
Sometimes when I counsel people who smoke I find that they struggle with issues of self loathing, often kicking themselves for ever picking up the habit. Many are frustrated and annoyed with themselves for spending money that could be better spent elsewhere and for continuing in a behavior that is detrimental to their health.
If you or someone you know has ever felt that way, take heart! Remember that nicotine is an addiction that many begin in adolescence, a time of experimentation and vulnerability. That vulnerability has been exploited by the tobacco industry for decades.
Since the early 1900s women have been extensively targeted by the tobacco industry, with many companies producing brands specifically for women. In 1920, one major tobacco company positioned a line of its cigarette lines as a new aide to control weight. Sales increased 300% in the first year of the campaign.
During the women’s movement in 1968, another tobacco company marketed one brand of cigarettes using the slogan “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.” The 1990s “It’s a Woman Thing” has now given way to “Find Your Voice” an advertisement featuring women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
In all of these slogans and campaigns the underlying message as stated by the surgeon general is that smoking is portrayed as being related to “women’s freedom, emancipation and empowerment.” Smoking is portrayed as sexy and dangerous, there is a mystery and an allure, and it feels good to be bad. No wonder smoking became so attractive to women.
How ironic, since many smokers feel powerless when it comes to quitting and enslaved to a behavior that they know hurts them. There is nothing sexy about cancer or an oxygen tank.
If you, too, have been kicking yourself for picking up the habit of smoking, now is the time to fight back and MetroHealth is here to help. View tips for quitting and attend a free smoking cessation class today.
Women and Smoking: Did You Know?
- Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women
- Women smokers die 14 years earlier than non-smokers
- Smoking not only increases your risk of lung disease but also increases your risk of heart attack and stroke
- Women who smoke or have extensive exposure to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer after menopause compared to women who never smoked
- Women who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk of dying prematurely with a greater benefit seen at younger quit ages
How dangerous is secondhand smoke?
Don't smoke, but are frequently around someone who does? According to the Surgeon General's 2006 Report, secondhand smoke has been shown to:
- Contain 250 chemicals more than 50 of which are known to cause cancer
- Cause heart disease and lung cancer
- Cause an estimated 3400 lung cancer, and 22,700 – 69,600 cardiovascular deaths annually
- Increase heart disease risk 25 - 30%, and increase cancer risk of 20 – 30% for exposed non-smokers
- Most exposures occur in the home or workplace
Given these facts, it's no surprise that not allowing smoking near an infant is listed among tips for keeping a sleeping baby safe.