University Park, Pa. -- Smoking-related illnesses and deaths among American and French women have risen sharply in recent years, despite vigorous anti-smoking campaigns on a global scale, says a Penn State researcher.
"For American women, increased female smoking, especially among teenagers, has caused a steady increase in smoking-related disease and mortality," notes Dr. Gary King, associate professor of biobehavioral health in the College of Health and Human Development.
"The proportion of all deaths attributable to cigarette smoking among female smokers rose in the United States from 16.7 percent in the 1960s to 47.4 percent in the 1980s," he says. "Most of these deaths were due to lung cancer, emphysema and bronchitis and, to a lesser degree, heart disease."
A similar phenomenon has occurred in France, which, though different in language and some sociocultural traditions, shares many similarities with the United States as a major Western industrialized country.
Until recently the incidence of smoking-related diseases among women in France was relatively low and female mortality accounted for only 3.7 percent of all tobacco-related deaths in that country. However, if smoking continues to attract younger French women, female mortality rates attributable to smoking are projected to increase 10-fold, according to King.
"Increased smoking rates among young American and French women suggest the need to examine further the use of tobacco as an appetite suppressant and as a means to build self-esteem and gain approval from peers," says King. "Studies have documented that nicotine does indeed act as an appetite suppressant and that cigarette smoking helps women remain thin.
"The accelerated role of the tobacco industry in marketing and promoting cigarettes clearly has to be factored in too," he adds.