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Revista Española de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 2173-9110Print version ISSN 1135-5727


JOOSSENS, Luk; SASCO, Annie; SALVADOR, Teresa  and  VILLALBI, Joan R. Women and tobacco in the European Union. Rev. Esp. Salud Publica [online]. 1999, vol.73, n.1, pp.3-11. ISSN 2173-9110.

Over the last decades, the prevalence of smoking in the European Union has followed different trends by sex. While the prevalence has declined for men, it has increased or is stable for women. In some countries where these changes took place earlier, the prevalence of smoking is now higher among women than among men. This document provides quantitative data for these trends in the European Union, with special reference to the situation in Spain. In 1995 there were 60 million men and 42 million women smokers in the European Union. Up to 48% of female smokers used light cigarettes, that is 20 million women. There are documents from the tobacco industry showing that the goal of the promotion of light cigarettes is to reassure their clients and to keep as smokers those concerned about their health who are considering the possibility of quitting. There is evidence confirming that this policy is successful, and that the misconceptions of smokers about light cigarettes deter them from quitting. There is evidence on the role of smoking in weight control. Women are more concerned than men about their weight, and for young women body image is very relevant. Young girls often have the perception that they are overweight. Although fear of being overweight is more common than actual overweight, the evidence suggests that being afraid of gaining weight plays a role in keeping women as smokers, and that young girls begin smoking taking into consideration weight issues. The advice on how to maintain weight should be included in any smoking cessation program for women. Any preventive action for teen age smokers should include weight control issues.

Keywords : Woman and health; Tobacco; European Union.

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