One in every five adult women in the United States still smokes, even though smoking takes an average of 14.5 years off their lives, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

ACOG said that approximately 438,000 men and women in the USA die prematurely as a result of smoking directly or passively – add to this total about 8.6 million people who have developed serious, preventable illnesses as a result of smoking.

ACOG urges all women smokers to do everything they can to give up. Women should take advantage of every resource available, choose a day when to quit, and take steps now towards giving up tobacco.

ACOG Fellow Sharon Phelan, MD, who helped develop ACOG’s smoking cessation materials for health care providers, said “Smoking shaves an average of 14.5 years off the lives of female smokers, yet nearly one in five women 18 and older still light up. “The damaging effects of smoking on women are extensive, well-documented, and can be observed from the cradle to the premature grave. Smoking is a harmful habit that negatively affects nearly every organ in the body. There’s just no good reason not to quit.”

More women die from lung cancer than from any other cancer, informs ACOG. The number of annual lung cancer deaths of women in the USA has increased six-fold since the middle of the last century. Several other cancer risks are increased if you smoke, such as oral cancer, and cancers of the breast, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, and cervix.

A female smoker runs double the risk of developing coronary heart disease, compared to a non smoker – the chance of developing COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is ten times bigger.

More Risks

Compared to somebody who does not smoke, a woman’s risk of developing the following diseases, conditions and unpleasant events is significantly higher׃

— Early Menopause
— Gum Disease
— Lower Bone Density after Menopause
— Premature Skin Aging
— Rheumatoid Arthritis
— Tooth Loss

Risks During Pregnancy And Risks For Babies/Children

The percentage of smoking women who have problems conceiving when they want to have a baby is much higher than for non-smoking women. When a female smoker does get pregnant, she runs a significantly higher risk of delivering a premature baby, a low-weight full-term baby, a baby with poor lung function, bronchitis or asthma. Breastfeeding smoking mothers pass on the harmful chemicals they have consumed from smoking onto their offspring through breast milk.

A woman who takes birth control pills, smokes, and is older than 35 years of age runs a much higher than normal risk of developing lethal blood clots.

Dr. Phelan emphasized “Pregnant women should absolutely not smoke, and smoking should not be allowed in the home after a baby is born. Unfortunately, we know that infants and young children are more heavily exposed to secondhand smoke than adults, and parents, guardians, or other members of the household often smoke around them.”

A baby whose mother smoked during pregnancy runs a higher risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome – known in the UK as Cot Death), as does an infant who is exposed to secondhand smoke.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that there could be as many as 300,000 children in the USA under the age of 18 months who get lower respiratory tract infections because of their exposure to secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke can raise a baby’s risk of having asthma attacks, ear problems and respiratory infections.

One quarter of current teenage smokers go on to become regular adult smokers.

Out of the estimated 4,000 American teenagers who take up smoking each day in the USA, about 1,100 will become people who smoke every day for many years. Just under one quarter of high school girls and one tenth of middle school girls smoke regularly in America.

The lower down the socioeconomic ladder a child is in America, the more likely he/she is to take up smoking. The likelihood of a child taking up smoking is much greater if he/she has parents who smoke – healthcare professionals believe this is partly because children have more access to tobacco at home, while at the same time they see smoking as something acceptable if it occurs normally in the house. ACOG also informs that research has shown that teenagers who smoke are more likely to engage in higher-risk sexual activities, and to consume alcohol and illegal drugs.

Hope for those who quit

Dr. Phelan said “Soon after a woman stops smoking, her heart rate and blood pressure drop to healthier levels, and breathing, circulation, and sense of smell and taste may improve. Heart attack risk decreases by 50% within the first year of quitting, and the risk of developing some cancers, heart disease, and other ailments falls to nearly that of a nonsmoker within the first few years.”

Dr. Phelan added “It takes most smokers several attempts to kick cigarettes for good. Going cold turkey can be extremely difficult because of nicotine withdrawal and cravings. Physicians can suggest nicotine replacement products – patches, gums, nasal sprays, etc. – to help with cravings. They can also prescribe medications such as bupropion or varenicline, which in combination with nicotine replacement, can double the chances of quitting.”

Source – American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Written by – Christian Nordqvist