As we celebrate the anniversary of women's right to vote on August 26th, Women's Equality Day, we need to draw attention to the effect of tobacco-related diseases on women.
Lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer as a leading killer of women. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease, which kills one of three women in the United States. Babies born to women who smoke and babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are at greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, and other chronic lung diseases.
It is not by accident that tobacco use has increased to the point of creating an epidemic among American women. Since the 1960s, tobacco advertising has linked women's liberation with smoking, beginning with "You've come a long way, baby," and now proclaiming that "It's a woman thing." The tobacco companies also have developed slick advertising campaigns that glamorize smoking and that connect cigarettes with thinness. The Federal Trade Commission's annual report on tobacco advertising revealed that advertising and promotional expenditures increased by $2.68 billion (21.5%) between 2002 and 2003, for a grand total annual expenditure of $15.15 billion. This represents an increase of approximately $9 billion since 1998.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a number of publications that explain the risks of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke and the benefits of quitting. These include the 2006 Surgeon General's Report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, the 2004 Surgeon General's Report, The Health Consequences of Smoking, and a number of products based on these reports. CDC also has a community toolkit to help combat the problem of tobacco use among young girls and women, Dispelling the Myths About Smoking.
We may not have the money that the tobacco companies have, but we have hearts that react to the pain and suffering caused by tobacco use. All of us must work together to keep children safe from tobacco use and to help those who want to quit their deadly addiction