Senate Committee: Tobacco Companies Target Women

WASHINGTON, DC – As tobacco companies target women with advertising relating smoking to success and social desirability, lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death among women, a Senate Government Affairs sub-Committee reported today. Senator Tom Carper, a member of the committee, said education is the key to getting past the advertisements and to the truth -smoking kills and women smokers are at particular risk. Witnesses at the hearing also said that tobacco companies are finding new ways to expose children to cigarette advertising. “Preventing tobacco addiction now is one of the most important things we can do to improve the nation’s long-term health. But tobacco companies are spending billions of dollars to recruit women smokers,” Carper said. “Against this onslaught of advertising, our best weapon is the truth. The truth is lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women. The truth is smoking for pregnant women can lead to dangerously low birth weights or even stillbirths. The truth is women smokers are at increased risk for strokes and heart disease.” The hearing featured witnesses from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, doctors, professors, and a family that suffered health effects from smoking. They unveiled some surprising facts: “22% of women and at least 1.5 million adolescent girls smoke. In 1999, 165,000 U.S. women died prematurely from smoking-related diseases. This year, lung cancer will kill nearly 68,000 U.S. women – 27,000 more than from breast cancer. Postmenopausal women who currently smoke have lower bone density and an increased risk of hip fracture than women who do not. Women smokers face unique problems such as spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, low birth weight and premature menopause.” As Governor, Carper served as vice chair for the American Legacy Foundation board of directors. Established in 1998 as a result of the national tobacco settlement, the mission of the foundation is to reduce tobacco usage in the United States and promote tobacco-free generations. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that educating young people about the dangers of smoking through projects like its “Truth Campaign” cut smoking rates from 12.6 percent to 12.2 percent among 8th graders; from 23.9 to 21.3 percent among tenth graders and from 31.4 percent to 29.5 percent among twelfth graders.