World No Tobacco Day

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day—an annual awareness day sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1987 to draw worldwide attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes. The theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is “gender and tobacco, with an emphasis on marketing to women.”   Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide and is estimated to kill more than 5 million people each year.

Although women account for only about 20% of the world’s 1 billion smokers, female tobacco use is on the rise. In the US., 17.4% of adult women smoke.  Particularly troubling is evidence that tobacco industry advertising increasingly targets girls and women. World No Tobacco Day 2010 recognizes the importance of controlling the epidemic of tobacco use among women. This year’s theme emphasizes the importance of understanding gender differences in tobacco use, advertising, and health effects to protect and promote the health of women and girls worldwide.

Cigarette smoking kills more than 173,000 women in the United States each year. In addition to the risks both men and women face from smoking, women are at risk for a unique set of complications, including certain cancers and problems with fertility and pregnancy. Even with all these risks, many women continue to smoke cigarettes. This may be because cigarettes contain a very addictive chemical called nicotine. “Nicotine is highly addictive, and smoking should be treated as a chronic, relapsing medical condition,” explains Carol Southard, RN, MSN, and tobacco treatment specialist with the Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group at the Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness.

“Seeing your health care provider is an important first step and can be a good source of support to discuss options to help you stop smoking. There are seven FDA approved medications to help people quit smoking. Medications constitute an important cessation intervention, and it is recommended that clinicians should encourage every patient willing to make a quit attempt to use medication and counseling treatments. By using some of the medications, you may be able to at least double your chance of quitting,” adds Southard.