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Smoking is hazardous to your health. But for women, it might be “11-years-shorter-lifespan” kind of hazardous.

photo: JavierPsilocybin via Flickr

Unless you’ve somehow avoided all forms of mass communication over the past few decades, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that smoking is bad. But for us ladies, the full hazards of smoking and the benefits of stopping are only now being truly understood. And the results are pretty grim.

Men were early adopters of smoking, with many taking up the habit by the mid-20th century.  But smoking among young women didn’t reach its popularity peak until the 1960s. Because of the time lag, it’s taken until the 21st century to fully observe the consequences of the habit in women.

Now, for the first time, recent findings from the Million Woman Study offer an examination of the long-term health effects on the first generation of women in the UK in which smoking was widespread in early adult life.

Rachel R Huxley, M.A., D.Phil., an associate professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, recently wrote the “The full hazards of smoking and benefits of stopping for women,” a commentary appearing in The Lancet.

“Previous studies have underestimated the full eventual impact of smoking on mortality in women because of the lengthy time lag between when smoking became popular among young women and disease onset in middle and old age,” said Huxley.

In her commentary, Huxley broke down the main findings, which she said were simple and unequivocal:

  • The annual death rate in women smokers 50–80 years was triple that of never-smokers.
  • Those who smoked only a handful of cigarettes a day (as opposed to pack-a-day or more smokers) had twice the mortality rate of never-smokers.
  • Smoking throughout adulthood reduced life expectancy in women by about 11 years.
  • Women who quit smoking before they turned 30 avoided nearly all of the smoking caused deaths
  • Women who continued smoking throughout adulthood had death rates 200% higher.

“The findings from this study emphasize the need for effective sex-specific and culturally specific tobacco control policies,” said Huxley. “We must encourage adults who already smoke to quit and discourage children and young adults from starting to smoke.”

You can read the full article here.

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