WOMEN smokers admit they are financially scrimping in order to fund their addiction – and saving money is not a strong enough motivator to quit.
The worrying findings emerged in a focus group survey by the Irish Cancer Society in the wake of statistics showing lung cancer has now overtaken breast disease as the main cause of cancer death in women.
One Irish woman in every three smokes, and it is as high as one in two among younger and socially disadvantaged groups.
"The incidence of cancer in the disadvantaged social group is almost twice as high as that among the better off," said the organisation's head of advocacy and communications, Kathleen O'Meara.
A report on 'Women and Smoking: Time to Face the Facts', launched by the society yesterday showed:
• Women are smoking between five to 20 cigarettes a day, and it is a habit they are ashamed of.
• Better-off women admit they hide in order to have a smoke at work.
• Women are desensitised to the ill-effects of smoking.
• Hand-rolled cigarettes are more popular to save money.
• Pregnancy is the one tangible event that would persuade women to quit, but mothers admitted resuming the habit once the baby is born.
Writing in the report, Dr Finbarr O'Connell, a respiratory physician in St James's Hospital said: "Irish women are smoking for Europe."
He added: "Not many people know the average number of years lost due to smoking is 16. While there are more cases of breast than lung cancer in women the survival rate is better."
Women are getting lung cancer younger than men, and while there used to be 10 cases of lung cancer in men for every case in a woman it is now almost even.
The report recommends a new strategy to help women to quit and said the services "need to go where smokers are and make sure information and support goes to the people who need it most".
People should be able to access stop smoking services in the community and not just in hospitals.
Community champions should be used, and well-resourced stop smoking clinics should be set up in maternity hospitals.
A reality television programme that follows a group of smokers trying to quit should be developed.
A Weight Watchers model should be used, where women support each other reaching their goal.