|Women and Smoking
Smoking is an addiction. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, a drug that is addictive and can make it very hard, but not impossible, to quit. If you smoke, your body is exposed to chemicals that cause cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and respiratory conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking is also linked to a variety of disorders and conditions including infertility and the slow healing of wounds.
We all have heard the warnings: Cigarettes can cause cancer and increase the risk of heart disease. But the sad fact is that approximately 23 million women in the United States (23% of the female population) smoke. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in this country; yet more than 140,000 women die each year from smoking-related causes. Approximately one fifth of all deaths in the United States can be blamed on smoking.
Smoking harms not just the smoker, but also family members, co-workers, and others who breathe the smoker's cigarette smoke (second-hand smoke).
Among infants 18 months of age and younger, second-hand smoke is associated with nearly 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia annually.
Second-hand smoke increases a child's risk for middle ear problems, causes coughing and wheezing, and worsens asthma.
If both parents smoke, a teenager is more than twice as likely to smoke than a young person whose parents are both non-smokers. In households where one parent smokes, young people are also more likely to start smoking.
Twenty-seven percent of women smokers are between ages 25 and 44.
Women smokers suffer all the consequences of smoking that men do, such as increased risk of respiratory diseases and various cancers (lung, mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, kidney, and bladder).
In general, women smokers experience more illness and chronic conditions than women who have never smoked. According to the American Cancer Society, women who smoke heavily have nearly 3-fold more bronchitis and emphysema, 75% more chronic sinusitis, and 50% more peptic ulcers than non-smokers. The incidence of illness, such as influenza, is 20% higher for women smokers than women who are non-smokers. Currently, employed women smokers report more days lost from work due to illness and injury than do working women who do not smoke. In addition, women smokers younger than 65 years of age have more limited physical activity than those who have never smoked.
Pregnancy and Smoking
Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to deliver low birth-weight babies. If all women quit smoking during pregnancy, approximately 4,000 additional babies would live each year.
Chemicals in tobacco are passed from pregnant mothers through the bloodstream to the fetus. These toxic chemicals present serious risks to the unborn child, as well as the mother. According to Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century, by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, 'Smoking during pregnancy is associated with preterm delivery, low birth-weight, premature rupture of membranes, placenta previa, miscarriage, and neonatal death. Newborns whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have the same nicotine levels in their bloodstreams as adults who smoke, and they go through withdrawal during their first days of life.'
Children born to mothers who smoke experience more colds, earaches, respiratory problems, and illnesses requiring visits to the pediatrician than children born to non-smokers
Is a baby part of your future plans? Many women today delay childbirth until they are in their 30s or even 40s, which can cause fertility problems even for non-smoking women. But women who smoke and delay childbirth are putting themselves at a substantially greater risk of future infertility than non-smokers.
Increasingly, studies are showing that decreased ovulatory response, as well as the fertilization and implantation of the zygote, may be impaired in women who smoke. Chemicals in tobacco are suspected of altering the cervical fluid, making it toxic to sperm, and making pregnancy to be difficult to achieve.
We cannot leave the men out on this one, either. Male smokers are 50% more likely to become impotent. Some of the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes may result in gene mutations that can cause miscarriage, birth defects, cancer, and other health problems in children.
Research suggests that smoking cessation should be a gradual process because withdrawal symptoms are less severe in those who quit gradually than in those who quit all at once. Relapse rates are highest in the first few weeks and months and diminish considerably after 3 months.
Studies have shown that pharmacological treatment combined with psychological treatment, including psychological support and skills training to overcome high-risk situations, results in some of the highest long-term abstinence rates.
Nicotine chewing gum is one medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of nicotine dependence. Nicotine gum acts as a nicotine replacement.
The success rates for smoking cessation treatment with nicotine chewing gum vary considerably across studies, but evidence suggests that it is a safe means of facilitating smoking cessation if chewed according to instructions and restricted to patients who are under medical supervision.
Another approach to smoking cessation is the nicotine transdermal patch, a skin patch that delivers a relatively constant amount of nicotine to the person wearing it. A research team at NIDA Division of Intramural Research studied the safety, mechanism of action, and abuse liability of the FDA-approved patch. Both nicotine gum and the nicotine patch, as well as other nicotine replacements such as sprays and inhalers, are used to help people quit smoking by reducing withdrawal symptoms and preventing relapse while undergoing behavioral treatment.
Another tool in treating nicotine addiction is Zyban. This is not a nicotine replacement, as are the gum and patch. Rather, this works on other areas of the brain, and its effectiveness is in helping to control nicotine craving or thoughts in people trying to quit.
In the future, a nicotine vaccine may be an effective method for preventing and treating tobacco addiction. The vaccine would prevent nicotine from reaching the brain, so as to reduce its effects and help keep people from becoming addicted