More teen girls smoking in U.S.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Surgeon General puts a new twist on the old cigarette ad slogan, "You've come a long way baby."
During the 1990s, the number of adult women who smoke declined only slightly and the number of teenage girls who smoked increased, according to the report.
"The current trend in the '90's has not been good," said Surgeon General David Satcher. "We have a lot of work to do."
During the late 1990s, more than one in five adult women was a regular smoker, and about 30 percent of high school senior girls reported having smoked during the prior 30 days, the report said.
Like their male counterparts, women who smoke are at risk for heart disease and lung cancer. They're also at risk for reduced fertility and premature menopause. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, sudden infant death syndrome, and low birth-weight babies.
"The girls who are now teenagers, who are now smoking, will be victims of these smoking related diseases in the future," Satcher predicted.
Teenagers are the most important customers to tobacco companies, according to Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
"Virtually no one starts smoking as an adult," said Myers. "Ninety percent of all the smokers began as teenagers or younger."
Tobacco companies seek to lure teens with ads to make them think smoking is cool, he said.
"Today, teenage girls smoke in record numbers, because the tobacco companies have been successful in associating smoking with independence, freedom, rebellion, and for many girls, a key for weight loss," Myers said.
Tobacco companies deny they target teens. Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro and the largest cigarette maker in the country, said it invests about $100 million per year in programs to encourage teens not to smoke. Company officials have said they target only adults who choose to smoke.
Total advertising and promotional expenses by the industry rose 22 percent from 1998 to 1999, to $8.24 billion, according to a report published this month by the Federal Trade Commission.
The surgeon general's report recommends reducing the tobacco company practice of targeting women, carrying out more studies on the health effects of smoking on women and launching more statewide tobacco-control programs like those in Florida and Massachusetts, which have been credited with drops in the incidence of underage smoking. The programs are funded from the industry's 1998 settlement with district attorneys of 46 states to compensate the states for money spent treating smoking-related illnesses.
"Seventy-five percent of women who smoke would like to quit, and yet only two to three percent quit every year," Satcher said. "It's significant because we can help women quit smoking."
Another reason for women not to take up the habit: They tend to find it harder to quit than do men. Experts don't know why.
Women 'suffer more from smoking'
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