Women should buck history's trend when it comes to smoking
By Cynthia Hawthorne, U.S. Army Public Health NursingMay 20, 2010
TACOMA, Wash. -- Each year, on May 31, the World Health Organization promotes World No Tobacco Day in order to increase global awareness of tobacco-related disease and to advocate for stronger anti-tobacco policies and legislation. This year's theme is "gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women."During the early 1900's, much was going on for American women. They began working outside the home, earning their own money. It was the era of the Roaring Twenties and "flappers." Women's role in society was changing; suffragettes were demanding the right to vote and driving their own cars.Change was in the air, and the tobacco industry was positioning itself to take advantage of this new breed of spirited, free-thinking women. But first, the tobacco industry had to change the public's perception that women smokers were uncouth and low-class.One tobacco company hired an advertising agency to develop a campaign to glamorize smoking by women. The campaign involved hiring debutantes and models to gather on street corners and stroll down busy streets with lit cigarettes.Very quickly, other tobacco companies adopted similar campaigns. One ad portrayed a glamorous woman in the forefront with her silhouette as an overweight woman in the background; the tag line encouraged women to have a cigarette instead of a sweet. Within one year, the sales of this particular brand increased 300 percent.During the 1930's, another cigarette company hired women to teach "smoking etiquette" at women's groups and garden clubs. These teachers would hand out free packs of cigarettes and give instruction on how to politely light, smoke and extinguish a cigarette. The tobacco industry was quickly mastering the art of manipulating public opinion.The number of women who smoked skyrocketed, accompanied by an inevitable increase in tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer and emphysema. Undeterred, during the 50's and 60's, one cigarette brand bragged that more doctors smoked its brand than any other. And, who can forget the ad campaign from the 1970s in which slender women smoked slim cigarettes and declared they'd "come a long way, baby'"For decades the tobacco industry has marketed tobacco products as an accessory which women can use to project a glamorous and sophisticated image and generations of women have bought in to it. We need to get the truth out about this accessory. It's not glamorous, it's not sophisticated - it's deadly.The Surgeon General Report released March 2001, reported a 600 percent increase since 1950 in women's death rate from lung cancer.In 2006, Human Health Services reported that coronary heart disease is the overall leading cause of death among women, killing more than 450,000 women each year. Young girls who smoke reduce their rate of lung growth and maximum level of lung function.Women smokers set themselves up for early menopause and more severe menopausal symptoms. In addition, women smokers have lower bone density than their non-smoking counterparts and an increased risk for hip fracture, according to the report and Center for Disease Control.However, smoking isn't just deadly or sickening to the smoker. Secondhand smoke is responsible for approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart disease deaths each year. In children, exposure to SHS has been linked to asthma, middle ear infections and behavioral issues, such as ADD/ADHD. Infants born to smoking mothers are at increased risk of low-birth weight, pre-term delivery, narrowed airways, reduced lung function and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.Support World No Tobacco Day by promoting a No Tobacco Day in your home and workplace. Create an environment that encourages healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Encourage tobacco users to call TRICARE at 1-800-404-4506 and book a tobacco cessation appointment or go on-line to www.ucanquit2.org or www.becomeanex.org. Call Madigan Army Medical Center Army Public Health Nursing at 253-968-4382 and arrange a class for your unit or Family Readiness Group.