The effects on women
CAUSE FOR CONCERN: A risk for themselves and their children.
IN recent years, an increasing number of young women, between 18 and 24 years, have begun to smoke cigarettes. This mirrors universal smoking trends. And it is a cause for concern.
Unless something is done, in time, the proportion of smoking-related deaths among women will increase drastically in the next few decades.
Risk of cancers
Women who smoke are at an increased risk for developing various cancers, including cervical cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, and cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, oesophagus, pancreas, kidney and bladder.
Studies have found that women smokers reach menopause at a younger age and are more likely to experience menopausal symptoms. They are also at an increased risk for osteoporosis and hip fractures, compared to those who don't smoke.
Smoking may also impair fertility. Pregnant woman who smoke are prone to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and the babies are of low birth weight. Studies have also shown a strong association between smoking during pregnancy and the risk of invasive meningitis during early childhood. The risk of bacterial meningitis is five times higher among children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy. In addition to other health problems, childhood meningitis can cause inflammation of the cornea and pink eye. And finally, oxygen therapy given to sustain the lives of premature infants can cause retinopathy of prematurity, causing permanent vision loss or blindness.
Passing it on
Those who breastfeed their babies may pass on harmful chemicals through breast milk. Babies born to parents who smoke are more susceptible to diseases such as asthma and suffer an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Women who smoke bear an additional burden apart from their own health. As conventional primary caregivers of young children, their smoking habits have far reaching consequences.
First, they put the health of their children at risk from breathing in second-hand smoke. Second, their habit can influence their children to also smoke in the future.
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