Smoking is not only a leading cause of diseases and mortality in the world, but also a highly preventable habit. In India, as in most other countries, smoking is more prevalent among men than women. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Adult Tobacco Survey of 2016-17, 19% of the adult male population and 2% of the adult female population of India smokes tobacco.
While the prevalence of smoking among women in India might not seem too high, the habit increases the risks of many diseases - some of which can have immense repercussions on health and quality of life. As research into tobacco use, smoking and its effects continues to be the focus worldwide, new information about said repercussions of smoking are emerging. The risk of the following health problems increases in the case of women who smoke:
A recent study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry reveals that female smokers are four times more likely to have an unruptured aneurysm in the brain than non-smoking women. The risk is seven times higher if a woman who smokes also has hypertension. An aneurysm in the brain is extremely dangerous because its rupture can cause a hemorrhagic stroke, which is a life-threatening condition. Even unruptured or leaking aneurysms can cause debilitating symptoms like severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, double vision and numbness on one side of the face.
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), cigarettes create over 7,000 chemicals when they’re burnt, and most of these can cause damage to your reproductive health. As per the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), smoking affects hormone production in the body in a way that makes it difficult for women to conceive. Some chemicals in cigarettes, like 1,3-Butadiene and benzene, are directly linked to infertility. What’s more, multiple researches over the decades have shown that women who smoke during pregnancy are more susceptible to complications like ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages.
The ALA mentions that at least 69 of the 7,000 chemicals formed by a cigarette can cause cancer, while many others are toxic enough to increase free radical damage to the body. While smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer among both men and women, it particularly increases the risks of cancers in the uterine cervix, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, kidney and bladder.
4. Respiratory illnesses
Damage to the lungs and respiratory system are immense in the case of smokers. The ALA says that women who smoke are not only at risk of developing severe forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) early in life, but are also 22 times more likely to die from it. Their risks of developing emphysema (a type of COPD) and chronic bronchitis is also very high.
5. Heart disease
According to the American Heart Association, women who smoke have 25% higher risk of developing heart diseases as compared to men who smoke. If the same woman is also on oral birth control pills, her risks of heart disease and stroke increase even further. Smoking damages the blood vessels, makes the blood more sticky (say hello to blood clots), increases carbon monoxide content in blood and reduces good cholesterol levels. All of these disrupt blood circulation and increasingly make heart diseases more likely among smokers.
For more information, read our article on Harmful effects of smoking and benefits of quitting.
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