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Despite Knowledge of Dangers, Smoking Rises Among Young Women
Copyright American Osteopathic Association

Despite wide-scale awareness of the dangers of smoking, smoking among young women seems to be on the rise. In 1997, estimates indicated that smoking among young females had reached a 19-year high with 35.2 percent of high school females smoking. This is unfortunate because it sets up young womenfor a lifetime of problems. Of the 22 percent of American women who are smokers, approximately 90 percent of them began smoking before the age of 18. Chances are that if you don't start in high school, you won't start at all.

Risks of Smoking

Young women who choose to smoke are often playing a game with their health that they will eventually lose. According to the National Coalition for Women Against Tobacco, smoking-related diseases kill more than 125,000 women yearly. These diseases include heart disease, lung cancer, and various other lung diseases. In addition, smoking can contribute to emphysema, osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, stroke, and abnormal pap smears.
Although most of the life-threatening results of smoking do not become apparent until after 10-15 years of steady smoking, some of the hazardous effects of smoking on the body are immediate. Taking one drag of a cigarette, for example, speeds the heart rate, raises blood pressure, and replaces oxygen in the blood with carbon monoxide. Smoking just one to four cigarettes a day can double or even triple your risk of one day suffering a heart attack.

Smoking To Stay Thin

Some young women begin smoking to fit into a certain crowd, attract members of the opposite sex, or because they live with or date a smoker. Others may take up smoking because they think it will help them to stay thin or stop them from gaining weight.
According to osteopathic family physician William T. Betz, D.O., chairman of family medicine at the Pikeville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kentucky, there is no evidence that smoking can help you to stay thin or lose even a single pound. It is true, however, that when you quit smoking, you may gain a few pounds.

"Smoking causes a desensitization of your taste buds," explains Dr. Betz. "When you quit, things taste better. In addition, people who quit smoking may substitute food for the oral habit of putting a cigarette in their mouth. On average, people who quit smoking gain up to 10 pounds, but some people do not gain weight at all." If gaining weight is a concern, there are several things one can do to fight food cravings.

"To prevent unwanted weight gain after quitting smoking, I suggest that patients substitute exercise for smoking," states Dr. Betz. He also suggests that individuals who wish to stop smoking should:

* Plan to quit smoking around a time when stress levels may be lower

* Drink extra water daily

* Chew sugarless gum

* Increase their activity levels

* Reduce stress

* Get support from family and friends

How to Stop
"People find it difficult to quit smoking because cigarettes are not only habit forming and addictive, but also readily available," explains Wayne J. Reynolds, D.O., an osteopathic family physician who practices in Virginia. Regardless of how you attempt to quit smoking, Dr. Reynolds says that it takes the average person seven tries before he or she succeeds at quitting smoking.

"An individual wishing to quit smoking must want to quit and must be ready to make important lifestyle changes in order to give up cigarettes once and for all," says Dr. Reynolds. Drs. Betz and Reynolds note that they incorporate the osteopathic medical approach in their care of patients by treating the entire person. This involves getting patients to recognize and acknowledge their addiction to smoking and to look at their lifestyles, including the factors that influence them to smoke.

"In addition, I encourage my patients to toss out everything in their house that reminds them of smoking," adds Dr. Betz. "I often remind them of the phrase, 'Out of sight, out of mind'."

Society's Change in Attitude
Although smoking was once glamorized in Hollywood movies of the 30s and 40s, society's attitude toward smoking has drastically changed. Fears of the health risks and concerns over second-hand smoke have promoted states to prohibit smoking in public buildings and on public transportation. Most private companies have adopted no smoking policies in the work place and many bars are becoming smoke-free.

Additionally, the physical turn-offs of smoking are becoming an issue that smokers must deal with-especially those smokers who are single and looking for love.
Smoking can cause yellowing of the teeth; can turn skin on the fingers dirt-brown; can produce wrinkled, dry skin on the hands and face; and can induce bloodshot eyes. Also, the smell of smoke is hard to get rid of, and it can linger for days in clothes and hair. In addition, most people will agree there is truth to the phrase: "Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray!"

Don't Give Up
People who wish to quit smoking may find relief in a number of over-the-counter products geared toward eliminating the addiction to nicotine. Such products include gums, nasal sprays, and patches. Oral medications are also available by prescription to patients who find it difficult to quit smoking, even with the help of over-the-counter aids.

"The prescription drug, Zyban, can help. This medication is simply a slightly repackaged form of Wellbutrin, a drug that is commonly used to treat people suffering from depression," explains Dr. Reynolds. "Zyban has been found to be quite effective in helping people to stop smoking."

Although the exact reason why Zyban works has not been determined. Dr. Reynolds explains that the drug is known to assist in relaxing patients while decreasing an individual's need for cigarettes.

"People should keep in mind that there is no perfect cure for smoking," warns Dr. Reynolds. "You have to make a conscious effort to give up smoking for yourself and for your family."

Although taking up the habit of smoking may be easy, thousands of individuals who try to quit smoking each year know that quitting can be very difficult. But, according to Dr. Betz, don't give up on yourself regardless of your number of failed attempts.
"Smoking is an addiction," stresses Dr. Betz. "It can be conquered. I did it."
As physicians who emphasize prevention and wellness, D.O.s strongly support the U.S. Surgeon General's Healthy People 2010 initiative in the quest to improve quality of life and increase the number of years of healthy life.

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) reminds you that November 12-18 is National Osteopathic Medicine Week. This year's target group is young women from the ages of 12-24. During this time, osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) will work to raise awareness among young women regarding the many issues they face as they strive to maintain healthy lifestyles. In addition, D.O.s plan to educate them on how preventive care can help maintain good health throughout their lives. D.O.s are fully licensed physicians who have additional training that focuses on the body's structure and function as well as its ability to health itself.

For more information on osteopathic medicine or to locate a D.O. in your area, call the AOA at 1.800.621.1773, ext. 8252 or visit the AOA's Web site at

Did You Know...?

* Each year, more than 125,000 American women die from tobacco-related diseases.

* Approximately 3,000 young people start smoking daily.

* 90 percent of individuals who die each year from smoking began their habit before adulthood.

* 24.7 percent of adults are smokers.

* In the 1980s, lung cancer overtook breast cancer as the leading cancer killer among women.

Sources: American Osteopathic Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Lung Association, and the National Coalition for Women Against Tobacco

You can contact these organizations for additional information:

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
1707 L. Street, N.W., Suite, 800
Washington, D.C. 20036
1.800.284.KIDS (1.800.284.5437)

American Lung Association
N-O-T (Not On Tobacco)
1740 Broadway
NY, NY 10019

National Coalition for Women Against Tobacco
801 N. Fairfax St., Suite 400
Alexandria, VA 22314

Craig M. Wax, DO, LLC of Mullica Hill, NJ provides information on health, nutrition, family medicine, preventive medicine, wellness, natural treatments, alternative medicine, integrative medicine, osteopathic medicine and just plain common sense.
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