“An Equal-Opportunity Tragedy”
“TEENAGED girls just aren’t getting the message,” reports The Toronto Star. What message? That smoking is a deadly habit. A 1991 study revealed that 25 percent of Canadian girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were smokers, compared with 19 percent of boys in the same age group. Even among adults, female smokers outnumber their male counterparts. “Tobacco use among women has become an equal-opportunity tragedy,” noted Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.
Why do teenage girls begin to smoke? Curiosity, peer pressure, and rebellion play a role. Not to be overlooked, however, is the advertising industry, which portrays female smokers as being slim. Yes, many smoke to try to prevent overeating, and they fear putting on pounds if they stop. Tragically, these women may be more concerned about the threat of weight gain than about the threat of cancer. Robert Coambs, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, summarized their attitude: “Lung cancer is 20 years away. Weight gain is immediate.”
The tobacco industry also targets women by linking cigarette smoking with independence. Yet, Jean Kilbourne, former adviser to two U.S. surgeons general, wisely stated: “One can only consider cigarette smoking liberating if one considers death the ultimate freedom.”