“Frustration, anxiety and pseudo-portrayal of women liberation are the problems but they can’t be set to smoke. Problems should be faced rather than be escaped from or be hidden from. The constantly increasing ratio of women smoking is worrisome. Explores the perceptions and reasons why women smoke.”
(By Syeda Mahwish Fatima Naqvi)
“Smoking cigarette is part of enjoyment while hanging out,” says Roheela.
“I smoke to stay slim,”Sadia tells.
“I smoke to stay relax and relieve any stress,” Lubna comments.
These are the general statements given by the females of our society who are indulged in smoking as this trend among women is on the rise in Pakistan.
A survey supervised by the Karachi University showed that eight percent of women are frequent smokers. Researchers found out that the reasons for smoking among women are different from those prevailing in men. The most general reason of women smoking is gender discrimination within and outside family. Women find smoking an act of rebellion against social pressures to be feminine, perfect and nice.
“I dress like boys, I behave like them and I smoke because I want to show my parents that I am not inferior than my brothers”, said Tania who is smoking for the last 10 year. She said if boys are free to smoke, why not girls?
Among girls, smoking is viewed as a sign of being independent and bold and is considered as a label for acceptance among peers. Psychological factors like depression, anxiety and a sense of insecurity are also well known risk factors. Furthermore, dieting is another common reason for women smoking. A team of doctors analyzed association between dieting and smoking. Their aim was to see if the desire to lose weight play a role in the decision to start smoking and it was found that teenage girls who start dieting are nearly two times more likely to take up smoking regularly, compared with teenage girls who are not dieting.
Apart from that, cigarette advertising on mass media and images portrayed convince females to identify themselves as glamorous through smoking. It’s a fact that heavy smoking is extremely injurious for health. Although equally bad for males, women who are frequent or habitual smokers are at risk. For example, smoking during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for both mother and child. It accounts for 20 to 30 percent of low-birth-weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries and about 10 percent of all infant deaths.
Mothers who smoke can pass nicotine to their children through breast milk. Cigarette smoking not only passes nicotine on to the foetus; it also prevents as much as 25 percent of oxygen from reaching the placenta. When mother smokes, carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas is inhaled by the baby that inhibits the unborn baby from getting the food and oxygen needed to grow.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), report, “by the year 2030, mortality from smoking related disease is expected to rise 10 millions and over 70 percent of these deaths will be in the developing countries like Pakistan where smoking is rising day by day.”
Passive smoking has now been directly linked with some sort of cancers. WHO links smoke with 25 cancers like, uterine, kidney, lungs, cervix, pancreas, head and neck etc. For women, smoking also increases the risk of stroke and heart diseases. In fact it adds fuel to the fire, chances for heart related diseases get ten-fold if they are taking birth control pills side by side.
Besides this, smoking is also responsible for bad breath and strained teeth, charm on the face vanishes and wrinkles develop soon. Such mother set up wrong examples for their children as well. Women who smoke need to develop a sense of self-love and care for their families especially children. In this regard emotional and moral support from friends and family members can help women to desist from smoking. Willpower can play a key role to give up smoking.
Mumtaz, 23, student of Karachi University said, “It was my willpower and support from my friends and teachers that helped me to stop smoking.”
Though I am facing problems like headache, irritation, fever and craving after quitting 10 years old smoking habit, yet I can’t relapse because I don’t want to shatter their trust”. The extent with which smoking in general and women smoking in particular, is increasing in Pakistan, it has become inevitable for the country to enforce laws against the increasing threat. Despite of producing more fashionable forms of tobacco to entice teenage girls and women by portraying celebrities and film stars in tobacco ads, selling cigarette should be discouraged. Smoke free environment at schools colleges, universities and work places should be ensured to guarantee a healthy and smoke free life.