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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Women unaware of smoking risks
Twins, 22, made up to show how they would look at 40 if Kirsty, left, was a smoker and Kelly, right, was not
Twins, 22, made up to show how they would look at 40 if Kirsty, left, was a smoker and Kelly, right, was not
Many women do not know about the health dangers of smoking, according to a survey published on Thursday.

The Smoking Cessation Action in Primary Care, (Scape) surveyed 1,757 men and women who were smokers or ex-smokers.

Figures show that 14-year-old girls are twice as likely to smoke as their male peers.

And last year, lung cancer overtook breast cancer as the biggest killer of women.


Women are still in the dark about many of the dangers of smoking

Dr Alex Bobak, Scape
But the Scape study showed 8% of women did not believe smoking was linked to increased risk of lung cancer.

A quarter did not know smoking increases the risk of heart disease.

And two thirds do not believe the habit increases the risk of miscarriage.

Ageing

To show women what might happen to them, two twins, aged 22, were made up to show how they would look at 40 if one smoked, and the other did not.

The smoker had stained teeth and more wrinkles.

Just under a third of women told the survey they did not want to stop smoking because they were worried about putting on weight.

Another 12% were worried about dealing with stress - 26% said the most important thing about smoking was that it helped deal with stress.

And a further 12% had concerns about cravings.

Despite that, 37% of female smokers say they want to stop "very much", while the same number again want to stop "but not at the moment".

But the survey showed many were unaware of how smoking could damage their health:

  • 89% were unaware smoking is associated with cervical cancer
  • 42% did not believe it increased the risk of stroke
  • 88% did not believe it increased the risk of osteoporosis
  • 30% did not think smokers had an increased risk of developing throat and mouth cancer.

They were also unaware of the risk to their children's health:

  • Only 10% wanted to stop because they were worried about the effects on pregnancy or their children
  • 29% did not think smokers' children were at increased risk of developing asthma
  • Two thirds did not think smoking increased the risk of cot death.

Compared to men, a quarter more women felt anxious or nervous at the thought or quitting.

Two thirds of women think they would need help to stop, while men appeared to be more confident they could do it alone.

'Alarming'

Dr Alex Bobak, chairman of Scape, which is made up of health professionals who work in GP surgeries and other parts of primary care, said: "Women are still in the dark about many of the dangers of smoking.

"Women need more information and advice, particularly as women may well be more prone to some of the dangers of smoking than men."

She said women who wanted to stop should go to see their GP or practice nurse.

Amanda Sandford, of Action on Smoking and Health, said: "This survey is very alarming. Despite all the reports, there are still women who are not getting the message about the dangers of smoking."

She said the message about smoking's affect on appearance may help. "That's something women are more concerned about than men."

See also:

21 Aug 01 | Health
Smoking: The sex divide
25 Sep 01 | Health
Passive smoking 'causes asthma'
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