Smoking was once considered to be a style statement in the form of cigars and hookahs as shown in various Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Though a statutory warning flashes with every such picture depicting smoking but unfortunately it is still increasing in women. As per WHO reports, 200 million of the 1 billion smokers across the world are women.
Smoking in women is on a rise, not just in West but also in our country. There are almost equal number of girls and boys who smoke indicating this habit usually starts at a very early age. Though the reason to start smoking is often peer pressure, coping with stress as is quoted or merely for attracting company; it often becomes a habit difficult to change or leave. Women are now more educated, independent and confident and smoking is often related to this sense of independence, but is this real empowerment??
Smoking is done in different forms such as cigars, cigarettes, bidis, hookah and a trending new form is the E Cigarettes. And this lifestyle behavior is seen to spare neither any age group nor any class of society. There are numerous carcinogens or cancer causing agents in inhaled smoke/vapors apart from tobacco. Nicotine itself is habit forming and the primary reason why E Cigarettes are difficult to get rid of.
Cigarettes and bidis are the most common form of tobacco smoking in urban as well as rural population Hookah smoking has been traditionally used in rural populations of our country done in groups with sessions lasting for hours together and is misconceived as being less deleterious than cigarette smoking, It has a water pipe and it is a common notion that water filters the harmful toxins of tobacco. Hookah smoke can actually contain 36 times more tar than cigarette smoke, 15 times the carbon monoxide, and 70% more nicotine than one cigarette. An hour of hookah tobacco smoking is actually equal to smoking 40 to 400 cigarettes depending on frequency of puffing, depth of inhalation and duration of each session.
E Cigarettes were first introduced with the aim to deaddict as they don’t have tobacco, however its interesting to note that it actually itself causes addiction due to the nicotine it has which is a habit forming substance. Also it has various other carcinogens other than tobacco. As it is available in various flavors, its quite attractive especially to teenagers and young adults and ironically makes quitting smoking difficult.
Smoking has various deleterious effects in women depending on their age. Smoking is causative for not just lung diseases like COPD, and cancers like lung cancer, cancers of oral cavity, throat and voice box, esophagus (food pipe), stomach, pancreatic as in men but several problems peculiar to women. In women especially it causes problems in reproductive age group and pregnancy ranging from abortions, birth defects in babies, preterm deliveries, low birth weight babies, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome); early symptoms of menopause, and also breast and cervical (mouth of uterus) cancer.
Tobacco by products are found in the cervical mucus of women who smoke and this has been linked with DNA damage in cells eventually causing cancer. Cervical cancer develops over years from premalignant to malignant changes in cervical cells, largely due to HPV infection. Smoking causes the persistence of this HPV infection thereby increasing the likelihood of cancer. It also weakens immunity, making clearance of infection from the body difficult and also making HPV Vaccination ineffective.