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Women and Girls and Tobacco....

Smoking-related diseases claim more than 430,000 American lives each year. This includes those affected indirectly, such as babies born prematurely due to prenatal maternal smoking and victims of "secondhand" exposure to tobacco's carcinogens. Smoking costs the United States approximately $97.2 billion each year in healthcare costs and lost productivity. Despite all that is known about the deadly health consequences of smoking, 22.0 percent of women smoked cigarettes in 1998. Data from the National Health Interview Survey in 1991 and 1992 showed that 76 percent of female smokers ages 12 to 24 years reported feeling dependent on cigarettes.

  • Since 1980, approximately 3 million U.S. women have died prematurely from smoking-related illnesses. Additionally, women who smoke experience gender-specific health consequences, including increased risk of various adverse reproductive outcomes.

  • Lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; it surpassed breast cancer in 1987. About 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths among women who continue to smoke are attributable to smoking.

  • Cigarette sales and advertising targeting women in the late 1960s and early 1970s coincided with a major increase in the number of teenage girls who began smoking. A 1997-1998 National Health Interview Survey showed that among young women, 25.1 were current smokers. White women (31.6 percent) were more likely than black women (9.6 percent) or Hispanic women (12.0 percent) to smoke.

  • In 1999, the tobacco industry spent a record $8.24 billion to advertise and promote cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, an increase of 22.3 percent over 1998 spending. The tobacco industry has developed potent lures for adolescent girls. The industry targets women with ads linking smoking to fashion, beauty and slimness to sell cigarettes. These themes are very much at odds with the serious health consequences experienced by women who smoke.

  • In the 1960s, tobacco companies introduced advertising, such as the Virginia Slims campaign, aimed at selling specific brands to women. The strategies focused on the emerging women’s movement. In the mid-1990s, the slogan became "It’s a woman thing" and more recently evolved into a campaign focused on women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds that promoted a relationship between smoking and women’s freedom and empowerment. These messages resonated particularly well with young women. Initiation rates among girls ages 14 through 17 years rapidly increased, paralleling the increased sales of cigarette brands targeted to women.

  • The decline in adult smoking has meant the tobacco industry must recruit more than 1 million new smokers a year, about 3,000 per day. Most of these new smokers are children and adolescents. In Illinois, 6,000 teens become new daily smokers each year.

For more information on Women and Smoking, see <www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgrpage.htm>

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