SmokeLess States on Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General
CHICAGO, March 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement is attributable to Thomas P. Houston, MD, and Donna Grande, MGA, Co-Directors of SmokeLess States:
Our nation is in the midst of a full-blown health epidemic. The just-released Surgeon General's report on women and smoking shows that smoking-related deaths among women have more than doubled since 1965 and women now account for 39 percent of all smoking-related deaths in the U.S. Since the release of the last Surgeon General's report on women and smoking in 1980, three million women have died prematurely from smoking-related diseases.
Probably one of the most disturbing facts in the report is that lung cancer, once rare among women, increased 600 percent since 1950. And, as of 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of female cancer deaths in the U.S., a fact not widely known.
The SmokeLess States National Tobacco Policy Initiative knows these trends can be reversed -- and must be reversed -- through implementation of proven strategies to reduce tobacco consumption by women and prevent tobacco use initiation by girls. The tobacco prevention community has indicated repeatedly that aggressive tobacco marketing singles out women and girls. One study in particular, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that smoking initiation rates by 12-year-old girls shot up an astonishing 110 percent just six years after the introduction of the Virginia Slims campaign and other brands aimed at females.
Between 1998, when the Master Settlement Agreement was signed by 46 state attorneys general and the tobacco industry, and 1999, tobacco advertising expenditures rose more than 22 percent according to the Federal Trade Commission. In 1999 alone, tobacco companies spent $8.24 billion on cigarette advertising and promotion. That's about $22.6 million per day on tobacco advertising in the United States.
The Surgeon General's report underscores what the tobacco prevention community has been saying: tobacco industry marketing is a factor influencing susceptibility to and initiation of smoking by girls. Nearly all women who smoke started as teens. Data indicate that about 30 percent of all senior year, high school girls currently smoke. And because of the addictive properties of nicotine, many of these girls will develop a life-long addiction.
The Surgeon General's report outlines key solutions for preventing and reducing smoking in the female population that SmokeLess States wholeheartedly supports. Those solutions are:
Implementation of science-based smoking cessation interventions into widespread clinical practice;
Enacting comprehensive tobacco prevention programs -- proof exists that science-based tobacco control programs have successfully reduced smoking rates among women and girls;
Encouraging females of all ages to quit since quitting results in immediate health benefits for both heavy and light smokers; and
Calling public attention to lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases to deglamorize and discourage tobacco use.
Our nation does not have to suffer the consequences of a tobacco epidemic any longer. We have the resources and the knowledge to immunize ourselves against this public health menace. It is absolutely imperative that we as a nation commit the resources and knowledge to save the lives of millions of smokers. Women across the country and around the world should join together to denounce this scourge on society.