November 15, 1995
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Janine Sharell
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Thursday marks the 19th annual Great American Smoke Out. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 9 million smokers will stop or cut down for at least a day. Anyone who's tried kicking the habit knows it isn't easy. And the numbers indicate it might be harder for women than men.
While smoking has declined dramatically among both men and women during the past 30 years, it's dropping at a slower rate among women.
Susan Camardo and Tony Reilly knew it wouldn't be easy when they signed up for a stop-smoking program with a Cancer Society support group. "We got married six weeks ago and this was supposed to be a wedding present beforehand, but we put it off because we figured it would be a pretty stupid thing to do in the middle of a wedding," Reilly said.
But even though they're going through the process together, what they're experiencing feels quite different. Camardo says that for her it's more of an "emotional stimulus." (184K AIFF sound or 184K WAV sound)
Smoking cessation expert Dr. Edwin Fisher of Washington University's Medical School cites the stress factor is the reason women find it harder to quit. "The stress of running a household, the stress of bumping up against the glass ceiling, the stress of being a secretary with four bosses, the stress of worrying about gaining five pounds, all these things have really hit on women more than men and make the mood-elevating effects of nicotine especially attractive for women," Fisher said.
Another strike against women is the long association smoking has with keeping weight down. As far back as the 1920s, smoking advertising touted cigarettes as a diet tool. Just this month, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the weight gains for women and men 10 years after quitting. The average weight gain for women who kick the habit is 11 pounds, slightly higher than the 10-pound gain most men experience.
But people who run programs like the Cancer Society's say the numbers shouldn't scare women off. Annie Beigal with the American Cancer Society says she's seen smokers successfully keep their weight down after quitting. (120K AIFF sound or 120K WAV sound) And almost everyone agrees that, at least initially, women respond better to programs that require something they're generally good at.
While the process of kicking the smoking habit may differ slightly from men to women, the consequences of not doing it are the same: Lung cancer has now surpassed breast cancer as the number one cancer killer among women, just as it is for men.
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