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Smoking among Women / Rise in Tobacco Usage in Women

Written by Mita Majumdar, M.Sc. | Medically Reviewed by dr. reeja tharu, M.Phil.,Ph.D on Jun 23, 2018
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Every cigarette takes seven minutes off your life. Stop smoking!

Women comprise about 20 percent of the world's smokers, who account to more than one billion.

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Nearly 22 percent of women in developed countries and 9 percent of women in developing countries smoke tobacco. Statistics reveal that in Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand, women smoke as much as men if not more.

Although in developing countries the rate of smoking among women is going down, the epidemic of tobacco use among women is increasing. Especially troubling is the rising prevalence of tobacco use among girls.

Smoking among Women

The WHO report, “Women and health: today's evidence, tomorrow's agenda”, points to evidence that tobacco advertising increasingly targets girls. The WHO–collected data from 151 countries show that about 7 percent of adolescent girls smoke cigarettes as opposed to 12 percent of adolescent boys.

In India, tobacco usage in women has doubled in the last five years, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS). The survey also found that the frequency of cigarette smoking per day by women is higher than the frequency of 6.1 by men. Further, one in five women in central India consumes tobacco and one in three women consumes tobacco in eastern India.

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Types of Tobacco use:

  1. Cigarettes: Cigarettes are available throughout the world. Although filter-tipped cigarettes are more popular, hand- rolled cigarettes are also widely smoked in many countries.
  2.  Cigars: Cigars are used throughout the world. Cheroots and stumpen are western and central European variations. Conical cheroots or ‘dhumtis’ are used in India.
  3. The hookah or water pipe: It is also known as shisha or ‘hubbly bubbly’ and is commonly used in parts of Asia, the Mediterranean and north Africa.
  4. Bidi: This is the most used type of tobacco in India. It is commonly used throughout south-east Asia.
  5. Clay pipes: Clay pipes, also known as suipa, chillum and hookli, are widely used in Southeast Asia.
  6. Chewing tobacco: Tobacco is used orally throughout the world but principally in Southeast Asia. In Mumbai, India, 56 percent of women chew tobacco. Pan masala, a popular chewing tobacco in India, consists of tobacco, areca nut and staked lime. This masala is usually wrapped in a betel leaf but can be served without the leaf.
  7. Moist snuff: Moist snuff is taken orally. A small amount of ground tobacco is held in the mouth between the cheek and the gum. Also known as ‘khaini’, it is sold these days packaged into small paper or cloth packets to make the product easier to use.
  8. Dry snuff: It is a powdered tobacco that is inhaled through the nose or taken by mouth. Quite popular in India, although its use is now in decline.

Inhale it, sniff it, chew it, or mix it with other ingredients – there is no safe way of using tobacco.

  1. Gupta R. Smoking, educational status and health inequity in India. Indian J Med Res. 2006 Jul;124(1):15-22.
  2. Aekplakorn W, Hogan MC, Tiptaradol S, Wibulpolprasert S, Punyaratabandhu P, Lim SS. Tobacco and hazardous or harmful alcohol use in Thailand: joint prevalence and associations with socioeconomic factors. Addict Behav. 2008 Apr;33(4):503-14. Epub 2007 Nov 4.

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