Hooked to cigarettes? Syeda Farida examines the ill-effects of smoking on women
Twenty-six-year-old Swetha works for a BPO. You can find her in pubs on weekend, nurturing a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other. "I like to smoke when I drink. And I smoke on a weekend though," she says. Madhavi, assistant manager with a leading bank, also confesses to be a `smoke with drink' person. "I smoke 3-4 cigarettes in a week. Two years ago, it used to be 3-4 packs," she says. Most feel the group is on the rise. "I find a lot of women smoking these days," observes Mani, a software engineer. While others feel it is just a coming-out-of-the-closet phenomenon. "It is not much of a taboo today. I find a lot of women having a smoke with a coffee. The latter is only an excuse. The first impression is cool. She has the guts to smoke, as she would have to ride a bike. But then the phenomenon is more prevalent among youngsters and it's an attitude thing," says Umakanth, a consultant with the food and packing industry. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that seven per cent of women in developing countries smoke (compared to 48 per cent of men). And Asia seems to be the virgin market for tobacco manufacturers, who are pushing in `low tar' and milder though equally harmful cigarettes and the familiar independence, weight control and managing stress themes.But why do women smoke really? Stress relief, craving, the `breakfast, coffee and smoke' dependency, weight control and social acceptance are some common reasons cited by them. "Smoking is more of a done thing and has nothing to do with stress. Started for a lark, the women then use it to handle stress. There are more productive ways to deal with stress such as arriving at a better work-home balance, or a relationship issue," says Parveez Chinoy, consulting psychologist. While the `Milds' or `Navy cuts' might send the `with it' signals, nicotine impacts women more drastically. Interestingly, women are capable of quitting the habit with as much ease as they get hooked to it. "I have seen a lot of friends who quit the day they get pregnant so that the foetus does not get harmed. Also they tend not to smoke if there is a child in the group," says Usha, a marketing manager with the hospitality industry. As for snubbing that butt, there is hope, with the professional lot taking the lead. "I have quit smoking. I listen to music to de-stress and I chew gum when I feel the urge to smoke. I don't want to reek of cigarettes when I make my sales call," says Madhavi. Some attitude that!Smoking hazards* Much like men, women smokers have a high risk of chronic bronchitis as also of cancers of the cervix, larynx and the lung. The latter is more potent than breast cancer. * Smoking reduces fertility, induces miscarriages and stillbirth and results in low birth weights. Cases of early menopause, reduced oestrogen levels and thereby menstrual disorders are prevalent in smokers. * Smoking while on the pill is lethal making the women 10-20 times exposed to heart disease and stroke.* Early wrinkles and skin problems strike on the beauty front.