Note to women smokers: Quit smoking.


If only you knew Betty, if only you knew…
This is a stark reminder: women smokers lose 14.5 years off their life span.
I’m going to disclose a little, shameful secret: I’m a smoker. Well, not your average pack-of-cigarettes-a-day smoker, but depending on my stress level, I can be a pack-of-cigarettes-a-week smoker. And I hate it. I’ve been smoking casually, socially, whatever you want to call it, for over 10 years.
But that “I’m a social smoker” excuse is a complete cop-out. I’m in the process of trying to quit, and if you’re a smoker, this is a great time to kick the gross-ass habit too. Reasons? Gee, let’s see…

  • Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in women.
  • Since 1950, lung cancer deaths among women have increased more than 600 percent, according to ACOG.
  • Smoking significantly increases the risk of many other cancers in women, including breast, oral, pharynx, larynx, esophageal, pancreatic, kidney, bladder, uterine, and cervical cancers.
  • Women who smoke are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease and 10 times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than nonsmokers.
  • Are there any former smokers out there who can share their quitting stories? I know I can use all the help I can get.

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    179 Comments

    1. nightingale
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      You can hardly hold someone responsible for the actions of the corporations they buy from. Unfortunately, we have to buy from people we disagree with sometimes. We all do it, unless you’re lucky enough to have a lot of options.
      And the hypothetical neighbor? Please, the strawman argument is insulting. The smokers I know all smoke outdoors or in their own houses. If it affects you, you can look for apartments where they don’t allow smoking. If you have to be around smokers, you can kindly ask them not to smoke around you. If they refuse, the problem is that they’re assholes, not that they’re smokers. The problem with living in a community is that the people around you are going to affect you. If that thing is smoking, so be it, and maybe your smoker neighbor will have insomnia and be annoyed at your noise. Eventually you have to realize it’s not about you, and be reasonable of your expectations of others.
      Seriously, your demonization of smokers has to stop. You are more than welcome to not like it, and not be around smokers, and have letter writing campaigns about their marketing, but making the decision to buy a pack of Virginia Slims does not make someone a bad person, it doesn’t mean they would blow smoke in your face, or anything.
      Unless you live in the country by yourself, have a minimal carbon footprint, and equally hate people who shop at Wal-Mart, that is.

    2. idiolect
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      What information am I choosing not to believe? I don’t think smoking is good for me, for fuck’s sake. I don’t think it’s a good thing and I don’t encourage doing it, all else being equal. I also don’t think smoking makes someone a terrible person, though. I just have a different set of circumstances and priorities from you that mean that I have an occasional cigarette, and I don’t really feel terribly bad about it as long as I’m not bothering anyone around me. I don’t see what in that gives you the right to call me an asshole or stupid or condescendingly offer me “understanding” or even “enlightenment.”

    3. nightingale
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      “Seriously, I think you (the general you) are acting like an ass every time you light up.”
      DRAMATIC IRONY!
      You’re practically scapegoating all smokers, no matter how reasonable they are. You are a giant asshole all throughout here; the fact that you have society’s standards on your side doesn’t change the fact that you’re ridiculously melodramatic and irrational about it.

    4. idiolect
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

      What is your deal with marketing? Seriously, I am trying to be civil here, but it is fucking wearing thin. I am not a smoker because I am just some instance of a “sheeple” herded into a behavior by advertising or something, Jesus. For fuck’s sake.
      I’m not “defending hypocrisy” or something, if anything I am admitting it and I am okay with that. I’m sure you do hypocritical things too, as does everyone else in the universe. The issue is not whether a certain behavior is hypocritical at all, but rather whether it is major enough to conflict so significantly with our core values that we just cannot stand to do the conflicting things at once. Obviously then, for you to smoke would be unacceptably hypocritical, but it isn’t really so with me, and that is my own damn choice to make, so back the fuck off.

    5. lyndorr
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      I wish more accurate information was offered in school so that people could make educated decisions about whether to use drugs and which drugs to use. Of course marijuana can have bad effects since it is a drug. Caffeine can cause addiction too. However, I do think there is a big bias against marijuana simply because it’s illegal whereas alcohol use is pretty accepted. I haven’t heard of anyone overdosing on marijuana or becoming violent while on marijuana while alcohol is blamed for many deaths and much violence every year. It scares me how carelessly people binge drink.

    6. idiolect
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      If you have to be around smokers, you can kindly ask them not to smoke around you. If they refuse, the problem is that they’re assholes, not that they’re smokers.
      This! Yes. (And the real assholes deserve whatever flak they get from you, too).

    7. Vanessa
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      Firstly, thank you all so so much for your feedback. The support here alone is enough motivation to quit; it’s greatly appreciated!
      Secondly, some of the language on this thread is getting pretty condescending and hostile, can we please take it down a notch and focus on ways to quit rather than placing shame on folks or being abusive? I really don’t want to have to start deleting posts or banning people.

    8. idiolect
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

      Hi, I just wanted to say I’m really sorry if my posts have contributed to the hostile tone. I really didn’t intend for all this controversy to happen. I wish you and everyone else very good luck with your quitting process, and some of the advice given here sounds really helpful (and stuff I will definitely keep in mind when it does come time for me to quit as well).

    9. lyndorr
      Posted November 30, 2008 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      Apparently withdrawal symptoms are more severe during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

    10. Hilary
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

      As a former smoker, I am really horrified at how much I used to rationalize and defend what I did.
      I am in medical school, and scarcely a day goes by that we don’t hear about how smoking has links to higher risk of whatever disease we are learning about that day. Discussing the risks o f smoking is more nuanced and serious than just a simple finger wagging.
      As for the feminism angle, I had a pathology teacher blame the increase in lung cancer in women on feminism. He said that the quest for equality has led women to want to smoke as much as men. I had some problems with his logic. I can understand discussing how smoking may be more socially acceptable now than it was several decades ago, but he spent a lot of time specifically blaming feminism as if it actively promoted smoking as a sign of equality.
      I don’t see it as a choice issue any more than doing heroin is a choice issue or not exercising is a choice issue. I can defend my choice to sit on my ass until the cows come home, or come up with 100 excuses as to why I don’t exercise (No pun or insult intended), but I think it would be pretty silly to shake my fist and pretend to be offended if I read an article about women getting more active if it contained accurate information on the health benefits of exercise.

    11. Hilary
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 12:13 am | Permalink

      Oh, and I forgot to say, getting pissed at myself for paying multinational corporations to addict me and kill me was helpful when quitting, too.

    12. idiolect
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 12:39 am | Permalink

      I totally agree with you, and I really don’t want to give the impression that I’m defending smoking as somehow not bad for you. It is really bad for you. All else being equal, one shouldn’t take it up. The only thing I’m at least intending to “defend” against here is a certain attitude of condescension towards smokers, as if we are just stubborn children to be pitied and disciplined.
      In other words, I think anti-smoking campaigns, and more personal one-on-one interactions regarding smoking and quitting, would work a lot better and create a much more comfortable environment if they were conducted with an air of mutual respect and genuine concern. I mean, it seems a lot more appropriate to me if a friend or family member were to approach me and say “You know, I really care about you, and I am concerned about your health, let’s talk about this…” as opposed to some stranger on the internet calling me an asshole or going on about how much I must smell and how no one will love me or something (which is clearly not what was going on in the OP, but became what was going on in the comments I guess).
      But yeah, I guess I do sort of wish the OP had been a little more personal (and a little more obviously feminist oriented) and nuanced than talking about a “shameful” and “gross-ass” habit and then listing bullet-pointed factoids which, while important information to know, basically communicate something which was definitely no secret: that cigarettes are bad for you. I guess what I’m asking is this (not merely rhetorically): why is this discussion happening here and now, and why should I pay more attention to it than I do the advertising and whatnot that I am already bombarded with every day?

    13. A male
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 2:20 am | Permalink

      “You can hardly hold someone responsible for the actions of the corporations they buy from.”
      Exactly. Otherwise you can point your finger directly at anyone who has ever made use of automobiles or modern industry, as contributing to environmental harm and death. You get “only” 46 mpg in your Prius and live a vegan lifestyle, instead of going hard core, working from your self built cob home off the grid, home schooling your children (if you have any, haven’t you researched how having any children who will perpetuate human harm ad infinitum is worse than driving a Hummer and dumping your trash directly into rivers), and living off the land, eating raw foods, spending your free time at Greenpeace and PETA, and stopping to bend over to pick up every piece of litter you see? For shame. You’re part of the problem. Instead of living as humans in industrialized societies have in the past 200 years, we should be living as humans did in the prior 200,000 years (and many still do today). At least it was sustainable (when there were fewer than one billion humans on the planet).
      It’s not about what’s “easy,” you could “easily” convert to sun and wind power or live off the grid for some tens of thousands of dollars out of your own pocket; if you’re “really” serious about minimizing harm to yourself, the others, or the environment, it’s about what’s right. There’s no reason smoking is any less addicting or easier to give up (for those who’ve already started) than oil.

    14. A male
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 2:54 am | Permalink

      But back on topic:
      “women smokers lose 14.5 years off their life span.”
      On average. Your mileage may vary. You could live to 123 and die in your sleep (my 90 year old grandfather died as a result of straining himself while doing his daily gardening – he fractured two or three vertebrae while lifting, then died of an unrelated infection he acquired in hospital), while a teenage tobacco user with a genetic predisposition gets cancer and dies within a literal handful of years; or you could quit smoking and get promptly get tuberculosis, another leading killer in our modern world. Or be killed by your last burger or bag of potato chips. Or die as part of ROUTINE medical care (like my grandfather), claimed to be the third leading cause of death in the US, up to 225,000 a year, as claimed in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2000.
      http://ltsound.com/AMA%20Journal%20Article.pdf
      “I’m going to disclose a little, shameful secret: I’m a smoker.”
      Congratulations for making the decision to quit smoking. Finding support will be one of your most important steps. Prior to this OP, I had not considered the “smoker” status of anyone on this blog, or it reflecting on their worth as a person. Nearly every adult I care about in my family has a history of smoking. That is what I think of smokers.

    15. Terabithia
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 3:24 am | Permalink

      I have to say, although I am clearly very much against smoking, I think the poster Hara above is taking some of this a little too far. Not all smokers are the same, and some of them ARE considerate.
      However, there are reasons that some posters are suspicious of people who claim they are considerate smokers.
      I think many smokers don’t realize just how far they have to take that consideration in order to avoid bothering other people. One time I had a neighbor who lived below us and liked to smoke outdoors on her fenced in little patio. That should be ok, right, since its her (rental) property, outdoors away from anyone else? The problem was, it came straight up into our windows. When we asked her to stop, and pointed out that my roommate had asthma, she pointed out that there really wasn’t anywhere else she could do it, since she wasn’t allowed to smoke inside the apartment, and refused to stop. What should she have done? There was nowhere outside that she could smoke away from any doors or windows for a radius of a couple blocks. I’d like to say she should have walked a couple blocks to the park for each cigarette, or quit, but I can see how someone who actually enjoys smoking would never want to do that.
      Some people smoke outside in their own backyards, not realizing that it does noticeably blow into their next door neighbors yard where their kids play and then come in smelling of cigarettes.
      If I have a coworker who doesn’t smoke in the building at all, but does smoke before work and take cigarette breaks, they will smell of smoke. If I’m forced to sit next to them for an 8 hour shift, it is not only annoying, but gives me a headache after a few hours. I wouldn’t ask them never to smoke outdoors, because I recognize that that’s taking things a little too far and there isn’t really any practical way for them to avoid smelling after smoking, but it DOES affect me. I don’t know that I can claim its a long term health risk, but in general if you smell something its because you are breathing in particles of it (that’s how the sense of smell works) and breathing in little particles of smoke and ash can’t be good for me, and it definitely bothers me in the short run.
      Certainly many smokers do succeed in being considerate of everyone else. But its a lot harder than most people seem to think. I think that’s why a lot of posters are suspicious when someone claims their smoke never bothers anyone else; its likely (but not for sure) that it does in fact bother someone else and they’re just not aware of it.

    16. Hilary
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Right, it wasn’t happening in the OP. So, what you replied was a bunch of rationalizing-type complaining about how downtrodden you are.

    17. Hilary
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      Hmmmm, I hate to think my path teacher had a grain of truth in what he was saying! I still blame the patriarchy for trying to cast smoking as feminist.

    18. gothchiq
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      My best tip for quitting is to use Zyban or Chantix. That way, you don’t crave, and I find the Zyban provides energy and keeps your mood stable while quitting. I am quitting right now using Zyban.

    19. JustSue
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      That’s what did it for me: I woke up one day with the realization that I no longer wanted to pay RJ Reynolds to kill me. And like a previous poster, I started as a teenager to be a badass, but I realized that as an adult smoker, I was no longer considered a badass, but a person with a liability, and I just felt sick of smelling stinky, burning holes in my clothes, having to run out and buy cigarettes at inconvenient times, spending all the money I would rather have used for other things, etc.
      And once that “clicked” in my head, I was done. It’s been almost 20 years and I still think wistfully about cigarettes a lot (especially in traffic, or when I’m stressed and looking for an escape) but I know they’d taste like azz (and they cost a fortune now!) and I don’t want to be a person who smokes anymore.
      Vanessa, good luck to you!!!

    20. idiolect
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Please, tell me exactly what I’ve said that is “rationalizing tripe” and exactly how it is so. I am serious. I at least feel awfully genuine when I am writing this stuff and I honestly just don’t see it, so help me to see what it is you’re trying to tell me.

    21. A male
      Posted December 1, 2008 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      “Certainly many smokers do succeed in being considerate of everyone else. But its a lot harder than most people seem to think. I think that’s why a lot of posters are suspicious when someone claims their smoke never bothers anyone else; its likely (but not for sure) that it does in fact bother someone else and they’re just not aware of it.”
      I do know what you are talking about. But just how far do you expect other human beings to go, to avoid not simply putting you at increased risk of health problems; but to avoid even irritating, bothering or offending you and everyone else? Are you willing to hold yourselves to that standard as well? (Closing a window is easier than walking a couple of blocks each way 20 times a day for a smoke. I know. I live right next to a busy street which links the harbor and a popular beach and hotel to the city, at ground level. I do not fault people for using motor vehicles or being part of a consumer culture. I do question the wisdom of my mother buying a house in this location.)
      Regarding smell. That’s right, that’s how it works. Now please consider what you are NOT capable of smelling or detecting because you are not a machine or a bloodhound, yet is present and perfectly capable of causing you cancer and other long term, life shortening conditions (like radon from your basement, some claim radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer; asbestos, recirculated fumes off of manufactured products through your workplace a/c, or a coal fired power plant estimated to cause a minimum of 24-30,000 deaths per year). Let’s not forget bacteria and viruses like the flu, which also kills tens of thousands a year (at least 6.7% of causes of death in surveyed cities tracked by the CDC), yet most people simply don’t worry about and do nothing about. Neither do they demonize someone who coughs or sneezes in their presence, nor do they monitor how closely strangers wash their hands before handling common objects or touching each other. Do you spray and wipe everything around you down with alcohol, hibiclens and hibistat (“It’s your best defense.”) before and after you or anyone else touch them to prevent transmission of infection and disease?
      Smoking is easy to hate because it is visible, and usually has an odor. Irritation may be immediate, as opposed to the days it will take you to realize you have a fatal case of influenza. You will blame the nearest smoker for your cancer instead of the coal power plant 100 miles away, the radon which is naturally present in soil and groundwater, or yourself for being part of industrialized society. Meanwhile, most people are unaware that e.g., routine medical care is claimed to be the third leading cause of death, conservatively estimated at 225,000 deaths a year in 2000; or how it occurs (insufficient hand washing a big cause, and in studies, only 10-12% of health care staff wash hands after contact with a patient), otherwise health care providers might be as hated as smokers currently are. I am not promoting distrust of your health care provider, I am suggesting people consider what or what else “really” causes harm to others and the environment, quite without your knowledge, instead of conveniently taking everything out on smokers.

    22. i_muse
      Posted December 4, 2008 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      Smoking is an asshole thing to do.

    23. i_muse
      Posted December 4, 2008 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      not nearly as dramatic as suffocating from poor lung health, as Hara has stated clearly is part of her experience, more than once. I think it should be obvious why she hates smoke and thinks it’s an assinine thing to do.

    24. i_muse
      Posted December 4, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Your cigarette bothers people. You choose to be in denial about that. I don’t have to be within 10 or even 20 ft of cig smoke to be offended by it…not to mention the damage it causes to the environment in general.
      It’s not a worthwhile cause to defend.

    25. i_muse
      Posted December 4, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      WHat is the point of smoking?
      What is the informed choice about? How does it improve your life and the life of others?
      Is it a neutral thing to do or is it destroying your lungs and the environment, coptributing to lung dis-ease in on the entire planet.
      What are you really choosing and why?
      I don’t care if you self destruct. But,
      can you please self destruct in a way that doesn’t affect the air we all breathe?

    26. i_muse
      Posted December 4, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      that is not exactly true. I think the point is that smoking cigarettes has no good use.
      What’s the point of defending a habit that causes social and environmental problems?
      When the smoker does experience emphysema, will she have a hearty insurance and retirement fund or will she become dependent on society to care for her?
      FOr those smoKers who think it relaxes them- not true, it increases heart rate and causes heart disease including high blood pressure. If you want to calm down, drink a cup of chamomile.
      No one is smoking influenza and championing the right to.
      The coal and oil and gas manufacturing are not ideal, not by a long shot BECAUSE of environmental reasons. No one is championing their benefits to the environment. Most people agree that there are better option we ought to be exploring and choosing.

    27. i_muse
      Posted December 4, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      keep on defending an environmental health hazard- woohoo!
      smoking is such silliness…

    28. susanb
      Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      you should definitely quit smoking. this is such a sad thing.
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    29. GamesOnline
      Posted October 29, 2009 at 6:14 am | Permalink

      All I know is I’ve NEVER wanted to be knocked up by my father, OR had penis envy!games

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