Half of poor, young women are smokers, and are ashamed of their habit but are not able to quit nicotine, according to the Irish Cancer Society.
One in three Irish women smoke, which the society described as “an epidemic”.
According to health promotion experts, tobacco companies are trying to reel in women by creating candy-coloured packaging, white packaging, ‘women-only’ brands, low-tar, and new, super-slim products.
This need to sell cigarettes via their packaging is more acute in countries where smoking advertising is banned, such as in Ireland. In Germany, there are mango and mojito-flavoured cigarettes aimed at young women.
Research in Ireland shows lung cancer rates among disadvantaged women are twice as high as that among better-off women — and the vast bulk of lung cancer stems from smoking.
Last year, it was revealed that lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the main cause of cancer death among women in Ireland.
However, the rates of smoking among poorer women is seen as another factor which puts them at a health and social disadvantage.
The report, launched by Alex White, the junior health minister, highlights findings from a conference on women and smoking, which was organised by the Irish Cancer Society and the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
Dr Jude Robinson from the University of Liverpool told the seminar that research showed “smoking is seen as a means of coping and taking a time-out, and an important de-stresser where control could hang by a thread”.
“Women are more likely to have part-time or insecure jobs and more likely to suffer from stress, and have less power at work and take on large amounts of unpaid work associated with low-status and low self-esteem, exhaustion, and depression,” she said.
Women and smoking: time to face the facts.: Irish Cancer Society. (2012) Women and smoking: time to face the fac... http://t.co/e39iqhjs— Drugs Library (@HRBdrugslibrary) January 10, 2013
According to Kathleen O’Meara of the Irish Cancer Society, many less-well-off women are aware of the health risks but see smoking as “a way to cope with the stress and pressures of life”.
The National Woman’s Council is calling for national standards for smoking cessation programmes, the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products, and the development of community-based quitting services for women, in particular.
*National Smokers’ Quitline: 1850 201203; www.exa.mn/fj; www.quit.ie.
*One in three Irish women smoke.
*Half of young, disadvantaged women are smokers.
*Smoking causes nine in 10 lung cancers.
*Statistics show that if you can quit by the time you are 35 and do not get cancer by the time you are 40, you are almost certain not to get it.
*Research from 10 years ago showed that one in 10 sixth-class pupils smoke at least one cigarette a day and half had tried smoking.