[I wrote this in a previous blog, but it's a message I want to shout at street corners, so it bears repeating.]
Why do women smoke, in particular, why do young women addict themselves to tobacco? The epidemic of tobacco addiction is our biggest threat to womens' health, with alcohol excess a close second.
An answer often given is that men smoke for good reasons, and women for bad. Men smoke in a foolish attempt to prove themselves tough, mature, macho. Women smoke to be like their friends, to appear liberated and sophisticated, and to satisfy hunger without gaining weight. Few seem to appreciate how potent tobacco addiction is, how difficult it is to give up. My impression is that the heroin habit is easier to kick. Tobacco really should be a class A++ drug.
What are the big interests of young women? Look at the many glossy magazines for them. Five topics dominate the covers: beauty, health, clothes, relationships, sex. Does nobody tell women how badly tobacco damages at least two of these - beauty and health - and threatens two more - relationships and sex?
If a teenager starts regular smoking, the habit is visibly affecting her face and health within a few weeks. Cyanide and other toxins in tobacco smoke inhibit the synthesis of skin proteins, notably elastin, but also collagen and keratin.
Her facial skin loses its healthy bloom, her hair loses gloss and weight.
She doesn't eat well, she will lose weight: she begins to look drawn and haggard.
After months of smoking defective elastin and collagen production makes the skin prone to wrinkle, and precocious wrinkling becomes more prominent as years pass. Tars and pigments from smoke slowly accumulate in the skin, giving a sallow colour.
The loss of supporting fibre-proteins affects her figure too: her breasts sag, her buttocks droop. She loses the subcutaneous fat which gives women their curves.
Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen from haemoglobin, and the body increases haemoglobin production to compensate. Her lips and cheeks show a hint of purple, and her performance in sports is impaired.
And, of course, she smells like an old ash-tray.
Young women who smoke wear more make-up than women who don't [I think that is common observation]. They are aware of their facial deterioration, and try to cover it.
It should be written on every cigarette packet: FAGS F*** YOUR FACE *.
As for tobacco and womens' health, consider the expected life-story of a female tobacco addict; smoking, say, 20 per day.
Age 15 - she thinks she's cool and mature. She thinks she can handle it.
Age 25 - she is severely addicted. She show all the signs I have described. In pregnancy she is at increased risk of toxaemia; her babies will be born, on average, 1 week early and 1 pound underweight.
Age 35 - she is a fag-hag: wrinkled, sallow, thin, slovenly. On average her children miss twice as much schooling as the children of non-smokers, mostly because of recurrent respiratory infections. She is likely to be chronically short of money.
Age 45 - she has chronic bronchitis: cough, phlegm, frequent infections, short of breath on mild exercise. She is at risk of stroke, coronary thrombosis, cancer.
Age 55 - respiratory cripple ....
Why do they do it? I despair.
[* NB F*** is code for FOUL: what else could I mean?]