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Women's Smoking Death Risk Has Soared

Shockingly, female smokers are far likelier to die from their habit these days than they were in the 1960s.

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By Valerie Tejeda

01/25/13

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Women's risk of smoking-related death has dramatically increased over the years, shows new research. Shockingly, women today are much more likely to die from smoking than women were in the 1960s. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examines data from over two million women in the US. The first generation of female smokers covered—who lit up during the '50s and '60s—were found to be three times likelier to die from lung cancer than non-smokers. In comparison, medical records from 2000-2010 indicate that women are 25 times likelier to die from lung cancer than non-smokers. Could "light" cigarette brands marketed to women be partly to blame? "The steep increase in risk among female smokers has continued for decades after the serious health risks from smoking were well established, and despite the fact that women predominantly smoked cigarette brands marketed as lower in 'tar' and nicotine,” says lead researcher Dr. Michael Thun. "So not only did the use of cigarette brands marketed as 'Light' and 'Mild' fail to prevent a large increase in risk in women, it also may have exacerbated the increase in deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease in male smokers, since the diluted smoke from these cigarettes is inhaled more deeply into the lungs of smokers to maintain the accustomed absorption of nicotine." A study published last year showed that female lifelong smokers die a decade sooner on average than non-smokers. But there's still hope: Another new study, also published by the New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that smokers who quit before the age of 40 can gain back almost all their years of lost life expectancy.

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