Great American Smokeout: Fewer Women Kicking the Habit

Thursday, November 15th was the Great American Smoke-Out. It's a day set aside to encourage smokers to kick the habit, but new statistics show women aren't taking signs of smoking seriously enough. For the first time ever, women are at a higher risk than men for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The reason is fewer women are kicking the habit.

In the past, advertising messages were both subliminal and direct, smoke cigarettes and you too, can be glamorous and sophisticated. They worked, hooking millions of women. At that time, many women didn't know smoking is the major cause of COPD, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. In the past, it's affected more men than women. Now, that's changing, because not as many women are kicking the habit. Dr. Dennis Doherty at the University of Kentucky says, "Two major factors that discourage women from breaking their habits of smoking are the fears of depression and weight gain. For women that are hooked, often this is too high a price to pay."

That reluctance to quit is taking a huge toll on women's lungs. In 1992, 41,000 women died from COPD related illnesses, compared to 51,000 men. By 1997, women were closing the gap, in large part because they're more vulnerable to the disease. Dr. Doherty says, "On average, women's lungs and airways are smaller than those of men, which may make them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of tobacco, which can lead to the development of COPD." The good news is that women and men can reduce risks of COPD by treating early symptoms, like chronic cough or shortness of breath, which broncho-dialators. You can find more information about COPD at