KABUL (SW): A number of social and economic factors have led to the rise in female cigarette smokers in the country.
More and more women and girls are falling prey to this unhealthy habit particularly in the stressful urban lifestyle. But, lighting a cigarette for them is not as simple as it is for men and boys in the country.
In conversation with Salam Watndar, a number of female smokers said they are aware of the health hazards posed by smoking, but they overlook them for different reasons.
Meena is one such chain-smoker who first lit a cigarette out of curiosity, and later got married to a chain-smoker, and is now addicted to smoking herself. She acknowledged there are many health hazards associated with it, but people tend to overlook them.
This young woman is particularly bothered by the fact that the society treats female smokers more harshly than the male smokers. She said men can smoke openly, but women have to look for a totally secluded spot to address the urge. Meena stressed smoking or not smoking is a personal choice, and should be kept that way.
Mujda, another Kabul-based woman smoker, admits smokers have more to lose than to gain from this habit. She lamented the Afghan society is observing this phenomenon among female from a social perspective rather than focusing on the health hazards it has. Mujda, who has been smoking for the past three years, said she no longer cares about the negative comments and glares she receives on regular basis while smoking in the public.
However, not every women can dare to do that.
Mehtab, a poet, is too scared to smoke in the public. She said loneliness and rampant smoking in Afghanistan tempted her towards it.
Highlighting the reasons behind smoking among men and women, psychiatrist Juma Khan Mohammadi, said some individuals get too desperate to achieve certain goals that sometimes entice some of them to opt for smoking among other activities. He acknowledged the male-dominated society views and treats female smokers more harshly than male smokers. He cited another example of women and girls riding motorcycles, cycles or driving cars. Legally, it is now forbidden, however, people perceive it negatively in Afghanistan, he said.
Health experts assert smoking poses additional threats to women in different stages of their lives. They noted a number of cancers, bone-decay, female infertility and other diseases can be linked to smoking.
A research by American Culture Society research has illustrated that those who are smoking in their postmenopausal stages tend to have a lower bone density along with more hip fractures when compared to their non-smoker counterparts.
For the younger cohort of women, during their reproductive stages, smoking affects their reproductive health as well as pregnancy outcomes. Research has also revealed that smoking does make it more difficult for women to conceive and it can also result in infertility. Women who smoke while they are pregnant increase their chances of having an early delivery and low-birth weight babies.