News Analysis

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Claire O’Mahony: I know the ciggies are a killer, but I can't quit

Published 30/10/2012 | 17:00

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SMOKING doesn't make sense. It never did but especially not now. Nobody of any sane mind is going to confidently stand up and say: "Do you know, smoking isn't that bad. In fact there are some really good aspects to it."

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Yet it's not easy being a smoker in Ireland 2012. There's the health implications first and foremost but you can also throw in the expense (€9.20 for your pack of 20 Marlboro Lights); the social pariah aspect; the smell; the innate guilt; the difficulty of taking long-haul flights and -- Irish weather being what it is -- the amount of time a smoker will spend this winter outside pubs in the freezing cold trying to get in on the outdoor heater action.

Oh, and it's terribly ageing too. So why am I still doing it?

The results from a just-published survey of 1.3 million people held some encouraging news for young women smokers. It found that if they quit by the age of 30 they could add an extra nine years to their life expectancy.

According to the survey, published in the British medical journal, 'The Lancet,' even light smokers have double the likelihood of dying of a tobacco-related disease.

But if they quit by the magic age of 30 the risk of premature death goes down by 97pc.

These stats might be the impetus a smoker in her twenties needs to finally quit the habit. Or at least rationally, that is what one would presume. And it certainly should be a heads up to someone like myself, who is post-30.

But to reiterate, there's nothing very logical about putting a carcinogenic stick into your mouth.

According to the Irish Cancer Society the number of women suffering from tobacco-related illnesses has reached "epic proportions".

Lung cancer deaths now exceed those from breast cancer and, while lung cancer has always been perceived as a 'man's' disease, it is estimated that it will be a mainly female one by 2025. Bear in mind that one in three Irish women smoke.

But if hard, cold medical evidence is not acting as a deterrent, it's difficult to know what will -- and it's not necessarily down to the simple fact that smoking is an addiction.

It's been shown that women smoke differently to men. Studies have found that while men discuss smoking in physical and personal terms, women tend to be more emotionally dependent on cigarettes and talk about not being able to cope without them.

It can't be said that smoking has a particularly glamorous image any more. Look at the effect it's had on supermodel Kate Moss, a stunningly beautiful 38-year-old woman whose skin definitely shows the damage that a 20-a-day habit wreaks.

Increased stress levels for women? This could potentially play a role but again it flies in the face of common sense. It's not rocket science to work out that hitting up the gym would be immeasurably more beneficial than lighting up.

Another reason why Irish women are continuing to smoke might be rooted in something that is almost as destructive and enslaving as a ciggie habit -- and that is women's endless pursuit of thinness.

At a conference last July the Irish Cancer Society drew attention to the 'superslim' cigarettes which many tobacco brands have now rolled out.

The society believes that they are meant to represent glamour and sophistication, while also tapping into and exploiting women's "irrational" fear of weight gain if they quit smoking.

According to the society, young women looking at cigarette packs which are branded as "slim" are more likely to believe that the contents make them slim.

Female smokers should try to remember that weight gain after quitting is a temporary state; lung cancer, not so much. Smoking: it really doesn't make sense.

Irish Independent

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