Women and Smoking (Archived)

Women and Smoking 1:

A few days ago, I read an article by my colleague Dr. Abdul Qader Tash in Al-Medina Newspaper under the title “Why Does A Woman Smoke?” The article talked about the spreading phenomenon of smoking among women in our societies, and it was a good choice of topic, illustration and documentation, as we have always known him.

That topic was among the list of topics that I wanted to tackle, after what I have seen with my own eyes of smoking among women during my last visit to our Arab world, and here I join my brother and say:

Smoking contains more than 500 chemicals, more than 50 of which are considered cancerous. It is no secret that smoking causes severe harm to one’s health like cancer which barely excludes a single system in the body, like cancer of the lungs, mouth, esophagus, stomach, large intestines, bladder, pancreas, thyroid gland, blood and skin… and cancer of the prostate and testicles in men and cancer of the uterus, breast and ovaries in women, in addition to coronary disease, heart attacks, brain strokes, arteriosclerosis, lung fibrosis and impotency. Many people might not realize that the effect of smoking is greater on women than men, and following is some scientific evidence:

–          Smoking lowers the rates of estrogen in women, the hormone of youth, activity and vitality, which also has great benefits on most organs, as it protects the body against heart attacks and osteoporosis.

Studies conducted on 119,000 women between the ages of 30-50 for years showed that the rates of heart disease among smoking women is 11 times higher than non-smoking women, and it was also found that smoking speeds up the development of osteoporosis, meaning that a smoking woman ages faster than a non-smoking one besides getting all the health conditions mentioned above.

–          Many studies showed that smoking leads to infertility in women, and increases the chance of miscarriage and conditions resulting from the detachment of placenta and bleeding during pregnancy and early delivery; it also stunts the growth of the fetus and increases his chances to develop respiratory conditions. Smoking even transmits cancerous chemicals to the fetus through the mother’s blood. Not only that, but other studies show that passive smoking – the inhalation of smoke while sitting around smokers – is enough for a pregnant woman to transmit cancerous substances from a mother to her fetus, which was actually proved as some cancerous chemicals were found in the blood of fetuses born to smoking mothers, including Benzopyrene which causes lung and skin cancer, 4-Aminobiphenyl which causes bladder cancer, and Acronitrile which causes liver cancer. The rates of cancerous substances in smoking women was 10-20 times higher than non-smoking women.

–          Since women in our eastern culture stay at home more than men, the effect of women’s smoking on children is higher as they are constantly exposed to smoke “passive smoking.” In America, parents’ smoking is considered as a form of child abuse, which was confirmed by researchers from the medical center at the University of Massachusetts who revised 30 years of studies showing that passive smoking is linked to millions of illnesses every year in America alone, and in some cases children used cigarette butts… This actually happens as the statistics of the American Association of Poison Control showed that 7,620 phone calls were received in one year about children under 5 who used tobacco in a way or another, while usingthe contents or ashes of 3 cigarettes or more might increase the heart rate in a child and cause convulsions and even a coma sometimes.

–          Studies show that smoking women get wrinkles at an early stage of life compared to non-smoking women, as one study showed that smoking was an essential factor in having wrinkles at an early age, and that positive relationship increases 5 times in heavy smokers than non-smokers.

This point might have a special significance among women than men, and that is why we mentioned it in this context even though wrinkles increase in men as much as women. We had a special section in the third edition of “Your Health Today” magazine for a complete 33-page study about smoking for whoever wants to check it out.

As for the question: Why do women smoke?

The spread of the smoking phenomenon among women in the Arab world has reasons and factors that we will talk about in the next article, God willing.

Women & Smoking 2:

Previously we discussed some diseases caused from smoking, we demonstrated how smoking affects women, far more damaging, compared to men, we also discussed medical and scientific facts that supported our findings.

To continue our subject, we will be discussing one of the main factors in spreading this harmful habit between women in Arabic societies, realizing the different social and physiological factors. However, many factors covering those issues from many different aspects would strain, and allow us to discuss one factor that is considered the most important and harmful in many ways.

 Before getting into discussing this factor, it is necessary to provide our readers with some information, insights and backgrounds on the matter, to help them understand the dimensions and goals of that factor:

* Media, Economic and legal pursuits by the American government against their local tobacco companies resulted in massive sales retreat, considering it is the leading exporter of cigarettes in the world, and where tobacco sales dropped 45% and lost 20% of its consumers (smokers) in America.

 (Percentage of smokers in America decreased from 41% to less that 20%).

* Tobacco companies were committed to pay billions of dollars (One Agreement suggested a payment of 368 Billion dollars over 25 years) thus resulting in huge loses.

* One of the methods to pressure tobacco companies was, to apply strict laws to prevent them from advertising any of their tobacco products on television and other media outlets.

* Restrictions on tobacco companies were soon to be followed in Western Europe countries and some other developed countries.

* Despite what was mentioned above, tobacco companies succeeded in increasing its profits, by expanding markets outside of America, resulting huge development in their sales (exports) for the next two decades, exports of tobacco increased from 8% in 1984 to reach 30% by the years 1994.

* Tobacco companies were forced to find quick solutions to cover its loses in America, through finding new markets to their products in third world countries, this was a policy that started years ago and has proven its success, which encourages these companies to increase their marketing efforts in that area. A quick look on tobacco sales around the world between 1990 and 1995 shows that tobacco sales figures decreased in America by 45%, Latin America by 11,2%, and eastern Europe by 1,7%. However, in Asia, sales increased by 8.8%, and the highest increase in the world was in Middle East, exceeding  17,7%, where hopes of those tobacco companies of increase would keep a trend for years to come, and where it lacks of any influential anti-smoking organizations and relatively easy media access for those companies to promote their products.

* Tobacco companies focuses on two members of society in the orient; Women and teenagers, due to fact that they constitute a vast majority of those societies, according to the latest statistics, with adult men market already been saturated and reached its peak.

*In May 1995 An American magazine (Scientific American) described what American tobacco companies are doing to promote their products in third world countries as unethical, and that it is similar to what Britain used to do i Mid-nineteenth century, by exporting opium to China to drain its resources. This is what was confirmed by the assistant secretary general of health affairs, James Mason, in 1990 (Under George Bush Administration) in the 7th Anti-smoking world conference, held in Australia.

From those points of views, tobacco companies began harvesting billions of dollars to promote their products in Middle East, thus the terrifying increase of smokers’ percentages. Smoking among women is just an indication and a direct outcome from intense media campaigns for tobacco companies and their products, aside from children, students and teenagers that, will inevitably surface in the years to come.

Women & Smoking 3:

Earlier, we discussed some diseases caused from smoking, we demonstrated effects of smoking on women as being far more damaging than its effects on men, and we even elaborated with medical and scientific proofs to confirm our findings.

In the second episode we discussed the importance of Media and its influence in increasing this habit in Middle Eastern countries, especially amongst women and teenagers, and the role of American tobacco companies in promoting their products to third world countries, which was described by general secretary of health affairs ‘James Mason’ in the 7th Anti-smoking world conference, as unethical and inhumane.

Confirming once again that, what we see from habits of smoking amongst women is an indication of intense media campaigns done by tobacco companies, aside from the unknown amounts of children, students and teenage smokers, which even have far more implications and effects that will inevitably surface in the years to come.

What’s really dreadful is that, tobacco companies have stumbled upon our off-spring to support and trade with our nation’s health and wellbeing for the sake of rapid gains.

In our last visit to an Arab country, a colleague has presented us with a photo from one reputable best-selling Arabic magazine, promoting for ‘women to smoke’ with a subject of a long nature titled ‘Latest fashion… Arab women and Tobacco molasses’ on the cover, inside the magazine are titles such as ‘Men loses battle with tobacco Molasses against women in Cairo’ and ‘Women who prefers grape molasses flavor on top of other flavors in Saudi Arabia’ amongst other encouraging titles with women from different social status smoking tobacco molasses, and where the dominant feature in those Articles is to show this habit in an encouraging and acceptable way, presented with style, including the existence of smoke warnings in small fine print.

Another reputable widespread Saudi newspaper has devoted a full page to promote a hookah for the high-end social status smokers, which was invented by a female English artist to be manufactured in the most famous glass manufacture in the world ‘as per their claims’. Here we ask them: Did ways of making money, creating and manufacturing ended up reaching to methods like this?

Examples are plenty, and our readers are better judges to withdraw examples far more shocking from the examples we have mentioned.

We mentioned those examples at the end to shed a light on this matter; the goal is to reach out with advice, and is not intended to personally attack anybody, which can initiate false, undesirable feelings.  But we say: what is in the minds of a handful of magazine and newspaper chief editors, and few Television channels and programs promoting for those poisons, presenting them differently from what they truly are, knowingly getting richer by trading with their sons and nations health. Media has a major role in spreading habits of smoking between women and children of Arabic societies. We see the worst Images of western women, we would’ve wished if they projected images of confident and productive western women, such as doctors, teachers, researchers and intellectuals who’d never put this poison near their mouths.

Our question here is: How do we stop this poison from crawling in media, and change to a tool fighting and promoting for anti-smoking. This is what we will be discussing in our next article.


OKAZ Newspaper – Tuesday 3 Thu Al-Hijja 1418 AH falling on 31 March 1998 AD