31 January 2013

South Africa: Smoke Like a Man, Die Like a Man

Women’s risk of dying from smoking is now almost the same as that of men.

This is according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed a considerable rise in smoking-related deaths among women in recent years. This is the first time since research on smoking and health began in the 1950s that the rates of smoking-related deaths are nearly similar between men and women.

Historically, death rates caused by smoking were much higher in men because the habit was more popular among men than women. However, over the last few decades smoking levels in men remained constant while there was a steady increase in uptake among women.

“We used to think women were at less risk of illness from smoking,” said Steven Schroeder, a health expert at the University of California in the United States, who was not involved in the study. “That is not the case anymore… Now they’re smoking as many cigarettes as men are.”

Because women now smoke like men, they also die like men, Schroeder said.

The research by the American Cancer Society is one of the most comprehensive studies ever to look at long-term trends in the effects of smoking and includes the first generation of US women who started early in life and continued for decades – long enough for health effects caused by smoking to show up.

The study also found that men and women smokers both experienced a 25-fold higher risk of dying from lung cancer over people who never smoked. Risk of death from other lung diseases also soared about 20-fold in smokers.

In South Africa, 21.2 percent of men and 8.4 percent of women smoke. Of the seven million smokers in the country, about 44 000 die from tobacco-related causes every year.

Sources: Washington Post, Associated Press, Tobacco Atlas

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