Everyone has seen or heard warnings about smoking. However, about 23 million women in the U.S. (that is 23% of the female population) are smokers.
Despite all the warnings, many teenagers dare to try tobacco products. Over 1.5 million of teenage girls smoke cigarettes. And the trend is not exclusively American. The rise in teenage girls smoking is also seen elsewhere in the U.K. and Western Europe.
Why more girls and women are picking up the habit? It’s amazing but still true, they don’t often choose a new safer alternative in the form of an electronic cigarette (check this). Let’s delve some light on these troubling issues.
The History of Female Smoking
When a femme fatale of the mid-19th century, Lola Montez had her famous photograph taken in 1851, no one could foresee that a cigarette will become a symbol of emancipation for women and create the tobacco epidemic that exists to these days.
The actress was wearing a fancy dress, fashionable hairstyle, and was holding the cigarette in her gloved hand. Lola Montez knew how to shock the audience. Ladies did not smoke at that time. This was a purely gentlemen’s privilege. North America and Europe had long associated smoking women with loose morals and sexual promiscuity.
The development of mass cigarette production started at the end of the 19th century. Just within 50 years, smoking among women has become socially acceptable. The tobacco industry contributed to the alteration of social attitudes by advertising cigarettes as a symbol of emancipation and glamour.
The glamorous image of a smoking woman strengthened in the 1930s. Bold screen stars made them more popular. By the 1950s and 60’s, many famous people not only smoked but made it even more fashionable using long holders, like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
Since the release of a landmark report by U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry in 1964, attitudes to smoking have changed dramatically. Cigarettes were first linked to cancer, and public awareness started to grow.
Government regulations tightened and they slapped tobacco products with heavy taxes. The pictorial images on the cigarette packs were more realistic than other warnings. Smokers were able to visualize the dangerous consequences and that caused a stronger emotional reaction.
Today, a woman with a cigarette doesn’t seem as edgy, elegant, or sexy as two or three decades ago. Even smoking role models change their habits. Many female celebs are now caught with unique e-cigs on camera. They are Katy Perry, Katherine Heigl, Sienna Miller, Lady Gaga, Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne.
As a result, many women switch from tobacco to vaping. E-vapor is proven to be a much healthier alternative. Even though a few studies found some harmful elements in vapor, their quantity was minuscule in comparison with tobacco smoke. But these data don’t reckon FDA and vaping isn’t recommended as a tool for quitting.
Most e-liquids contain nicotine. It is addictive and toxic. But no research has proven that vaping can cause cancer, heart disease, premature aging or any other health problems. For many, using an e-cig vaporizer means staying on the safe side.
How Smoking Affects the Body
Woman smokers face all tobacco-related risks of smoking that men do, as well as some unique consequences.
Carcinogens found in smoke increase the risk of various types of cancer – lung, mouth, larynx, esophagus, pharynx, kidney, bladder, etc. Cervical, breast, and vulvar cancer are uniquely women’s.
Smoking women have around 72% of the fertility of non-smoking females. Chemicals found in tobacco smoke can make the cervical fluid toxic for sperm so that pregnancy is difficult to achieve.
A Difficult Pregnancy
Chemicals inhaled by pregnant mother travel through the bloodstream to the fetus. The potential risks include preterm delivery, low birthweight, placenta previa, miscarriage, and neonatal death. These children experience more health problems than those born to non-smokers.
Smoking women commonly complain about abnormal bleeding, vaginal discharges/infections, and amenorrhea (absence of periods).
Women who started to smoke in their teens are at a significantly increased risk of an early menopause. Studies say that it can be caused either by a toxic effect on the ovaries or low levels of estrogens.
Women have a 50% greater risk of heart attack than men smokers. It may be due to the interaction of estrogen with the harmful chemicals present in smoke.
Premature wrinkles, the change of teeth and skin color, sagging skin and thinner hair are just a few consequences of long-term smoking.
Why Do Women Smoke?
So why now, when we know more than we ever knew before about the risks, women of all ages keep smoking? Well, all women are different. Everyone will tell a different story about how they picked up the habit. But while the reasons may be different, some of the experiences are the same.
1. Women are often expected to behave in certain ways, like not to lose their temper, to think of other people first, and be nice all the time. They find smoking a good tool for getting the feelings under control.
2. Women have too many responsibilities. They take care of families and homes, some rise kids on their own and have full-time jobs. There is often too little time and energy left to take care of oneself. For many, cigarettes are a quick and easy way to relax and reward oneself.
3. Cigarette ads encourage women to smoke. We are all influenced by magazine ads whether we know it or not. Women in the ads don’t use cigarettes to cope with stress. They are having fun and look beautiful and sexy. Modern tobacco advertising conveys the same message as a century ago. They associate smoking with independence, attractiveness, and sophistication.
4. Cigarettes make smokers feel comfortable. With time, smoking becomes part of a daily schedule. Besides, smokers’ family members or friends can have this habit. So, it gives a feeling of belonging.
5. Smoking is addictive. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. When a person quits, they start to suffer from withdrawal symptoms and often can’t overcome with cravings.
So, women started to smoke in order to break with tradition and become emancipated, to stay slim, and be in fashion. Nowadays, these illusions faded. Women want to stay young and beautiful longer. And they either quit or choose a safer and more up-to-date vaping.
About the Author
Frances is a blogger and wants to become a professional writer. She is interested in the mental and physical well being along with healthy lifestyles. In her posts, she focuses on the main problems of smoking and drug & alcohol abuse to suggest the most suitable solutions.