Smoking and Women
The number one killer of women is not breast cancer, as many women believe, but smoking-related diseases. However, smoking is one of the contributing factors to breast cancer. More than 145,000 women die every year from illnesses that are directly related to cigarette smoking, including heart disease and lung cancer. Women who smoke are two to six times as likely to suffer a heart attack as nonsmoking women. This problem is even more significant in our area. The mortality rate of women in this area due to heart disease and stroke is above the national average.
A 400% increase in the past two decades made lung cancer the leading cause of cancer death among women. Coinciding with this increase were the stepped-up efforts of the tobacco industry to introduce cigarette brands targeted specifically to women.
The Marlboro Man has long been a familiar icon, but marketing experts considered him “a male thing.” The successful marketing of cigarettes to women called for a softer approach, and that’s what Madison Avenue delivered–in the form of pastels and watercolors and brand names that include “slims” and “lights.”
Internal documents from tobacco companies have linked certain marketing campaigns to particular subgroups of females. For example, the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health, chaired by the U.S. Surgeon General, identified one such marketing plan as “a deliberate focus on young women of low socioeconomic status who are at high risk of pregnancy.” It’s a smart move on the part of the tobacco industry: 90% of smokers begin as teenagers.
A surprisingly large number of women who smoke don’t know their risk for smoking-related diseases are so great. Raising the awareness and providing solutions– including help with lifestyle changes–are the goals of groups such as the American Heart Association, which created the “Take Wellness to Heart” campaign, and designed a web site for spreading the word.
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