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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Women smokers at higher risk than men

By Adeola Adeyemo

Women who smoke or expose themselves to involuntary smoking are at a higher risk of contacting lung cancer, strokes, and heart attacks than men.
This was disclosed on Monday by Kemi Odukoya, a medical practitioner with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, at a symposium in commemoration of World No Tobacco Day organised by Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in Lagos. This year’s theme was ‘Gender and Tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women.’
According to Dr. Odukoya, women who smoke are two to six times as likely to suffer a heart attack as non-smoking women; and women smokers have a higher relative risk of developing cardiovascular disease than men.
“Cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, is the overall leading cause of death among women worldwide,” she said. “Smoking accounts for one of every five deaths from cardiovascular disease.”
Target on women
“Tobacco companies are spending heavily on alluring marketing campaigns that target women,” said Dr. Odukoya. “Women are gaining spending power and independence. Therefore, they are more able to afford tobacco and feel freer to use it.”
Akinbode Oluwafemi, programme manager of ERA/FoEN advised women to beware of deceitful adverts, sponsorship, and misleading branding from the tobacco industry.
“There should be a ban of all forms of advertisements that falsely link tobacco use with female beauty, empowerment and health,” he said. “There should also be a ban of misleading identifiers as ‘light’ or ‘low-tar’ and pictorial warnings on cigarette packs to depict risks involved in smoking.”
Media is key
Former chairman of the Lagos chapter of Nigerian Association of Women Journalists, Ugonma Cokey, who spoke at the symposium, urged the media to play a key role to in disseminating information to the people on the harmful effects of tobacco.
“As primary source for information dissemination, the media represents a key source of health information for the general public, tobacco health related issues being one of them,” she said. “News coverage that supports tobacco control has been shown to set the agenda for further change at the community, state, and national levels, an indication that media advocacy is an important but under utilized area of tobacco control.”
Mrs. Cokey added that with the alarming statistics on the harmful effects of tobacco, it was necessary to tackle the issue of smoking as a public health issue.
“More than 5 million people die from tobacco related causes, more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB combined,” she said. “Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death in the US and Worldwide.”
Protecting women
The gender focal person for ERA/FoEN, Betty Abah, said that there is a lot of harm when women use tobacco or are exposed to tobacco smoke.
“Thousands of women die every year because their husbands smoke,” she said. “As women, we have a duty to protect ourselves from such harmful practices and should start a national movement for women to insist on their rights.”