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Women smokers are on the rise

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EASY DOES IT Women are capable of quitting with as much ease as getting hooked on to it
EASY DOES IT Women are capable of quitting with as much ease as getting hooked on to it

Are more women hooked on to cigarettes now?

Twenty-six-year-old Swetha works for a BPO. Find her in the pubs on weekend, nursing 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 explains. Madhavi, assistant manager with a leading bank, also confesses to be a `smoke with drink' person. "I smoke three to four cigarettes in a week. Two years ago it used to be three to four packs," she says.And 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 that it is just the "coming out of the closet" phenomenon. "There 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 ride a bike. But then the phenomenon is more with youngsters, a wannabe and attitude thing," says Umakanth, a consultant with food and packing industry. The world Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that seven per cent of women in developing countries smoke (compared with 48 per cent of men). And with these figures Asia seems to be the virgin market for tobacco manufacturers who are pushing low tar and milder - though equally harmful - cigarettes along with the familiar images of independence, weight control and managing stress.

Reasons for smoking

But why do women smoke really? Most cite stress, craving, the "breakfast, coffee and smoke" dependency, slimming, a sense of control over their lives and peer pressure."Smoking has nothing to do with stress. Started as a lark, they 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 dealing with 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 with as much ease as they get hooked on to it. "I have seen a lot of friends who quit the day they get pregnant. Also they avoid smoking if there is a child in the group," says Usha, a marketing manager with hospitality industry. As for stubbing that butt, there is hope. "I've 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.

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Much like men, women smokers have a high risk of chronic bronchitis as also of cancers of cervix, larynx and lung. The latter is more potent than breast cancer. Smoking reduces fertility, induces miscarriages, stillbirth and results 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. Smoking also brings on premature wrinkles and skin problems.

SYEDA FARIDA

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