Women Come a Long way Back to Better Health

April 04, 2011


Cigarettes were never sexy, sophisticated or a sign of independence — despite tobacco industry marketing that targets women for profit.  Now women are truly breaking free by quitting smoking and finally lowering their death rate from lung cancer.

About a decade after lung cancer deaths among men began falling, the rate at which women are dying of lung cancer has at last started to decline, according to new data from the National Cancer Institute, compiled and released in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. 'Women started smoking later than men, so the peak in lung cancer mortality came much later,' says Lynn Ries, MS, a health statistician for the National Cancer Institute and a co-author of the report.

Lung cancer death rates among women increased by more than 600 percent between 1950 and 2003. In 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer death among women.

Experts say the new progress is the result of more women quitting smoking — and fewer starting to smoke at all. 

But future gains aren't automatic, and deep cuts to state tobacco prevention programs that are proved to be effective jeopardize the progress  we've made so far. 

States have cut funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs to the lowest level since 1999, when they first received money from the settlement of state lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Over the past three years, prevention programs have been cut 28 percent and currently only two states, Alaska and North Dakota, fund tobacco prevention programs at the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Putting money back into prevention will help keep everyone on the path toward real liberation: Freedom from tobacco.