Smoking and Women’s Health

Smoking causes certain medical conditions that are linked only to women. Quitting now reduces the chances of cervical and uterine cancers.

women's health

Smoking is detrimental to all humans, but there are particular concerns for women who smoke. Aside from the health conditions all smokers contend with, smoking may increase the risk for women to develop certain cancers of the gynecological tract, osteoporosis, and other chronic or life-threatening health conditions.

The Dangers of Smoking

According the Surgeon General, smoking will kill over 400,000 people in America every year. Worldwide, smoking related deaths are set to reach over 1,000,000 people in 2015. Many of these deaths will be women. Over 80% of lung cancers in women are caused directly by smoking, and many of the others are due to exposure to second-hand smoke. Heart disease, the number on killer of women, is also heavily linked to smoking. Additional lung diseases, cancers, stroke, and COPD/emphysema are also caused by smoking tobacco products.

Female Specific Disease

There are some conditions smoking causes only in women. Tobacco smoke affects every organ in the body, reducing blood flow and oxygen absorption in every bodily system.

Earlier studies aiming to show a link between tobacco products and breast cancer showed no relationship between smoking and breast cancer rates, but more recent studies have shown that there may be an increase in breast cancer cases among smokers. Smoking is known to accelerate hair loss in women. Women smokers are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer as those who don’t. Uterine cancer cases are also higher in smokers, according to the American Lung Association.

Research has also shown that postmenopausal women smokers have lower bone density than non-smokers. This puts them at an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures as they reach their senior years.

Women who are pregnant and who smoke have smaller babies than those who do not smoke during pregnancy. Some of these babies have a low birth weight, meaning they are smaller than what is considered normal for a full-term infant, putting them at higher risk of health complications. Prematurity is also more common among infants whose mothers smoke, as is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Big Tobacco and Women

For decades, the tobacco industry has targeted women specifically with ad campaigns depicting smokers as being more socially elite, classy, and beautiful. Ads showing tobacco use as a form of weight control have also been featured, playing on many women’s body insecurities. By showing models with cigarettes in hand, the industry is trying to convince women that smoking will make them more desirable, attractive, and popular.

These perceptions of women who smoke are inaccurate, as smoking actually causes wrinkles, yellowed teeth, foul breath, and other issues which are the polar opposite of “desirable” and “attractive.” Men think so, as well. According to a poll conducted by the UK online mag Female First, 57% of men asked found women who smoke unattractive.

Messages depicting smokers as being more attractive are most detrimental to young women and teens, who are often less secure in their social status and more self-conscious about their looks. They may also be more likely to mimic celebrities, models, and other smokers who they think of as being “cool” or “sexy.”

Stopping the Lies

The only way to stop the tobacco industry from preying on young teen girls and women is through education. Recent campaigns have begun showing the less than beautiful truth about tobacco’s impact on looks, appealing to girls’ vanity. Additional campaigns have shown the health consequences of smoking as well.

Those who currently smoke are urged to quit. Many smoking cessation aids are available to help make this possible, even for those who have smoked for many years.

For more motivation to quit smoking once and for all, visit The Real Cost of Smoking.

Read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body at The Effects of Smoking.

Learn more about smoking:

Nicotine Dependence and Freedom

• How to Inspire a Smoker to Quit

• Secondhand Smoke: Think Twice

Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey