Women tops in smoking-related deaths

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New research shows that more than 30 percent of all deaths among middle-aged women in Norway can be blamed on smoking. The research, recently published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, shows that smoking has far more fatal consequences than previously thought, with Norway topping world statistics for smoking-related deaths among women.

“Everyone knows that smoking is dangerous, but we got a shock when we saw these figures,” Dr Inger Torhild Gram, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Tromsø, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Thursday.

She spearheaded the research and told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Thursday morning that she and most of her colleagues thought women in Denmark and the Netherlands smoked more and died of it more often than Norwegian women. They were wrong.

According to state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway), 17 percent of Norwegians smoke daily, including 19 percent of all men and 16 percent of all women. Another 8 percent of women questioned smoke occasionally, so-called “party smokers.”

Dagsavisen reported that data collected from more than 85,000 Norwegian women between the ages of 31 and 69 was linked to SSB’s register listing causes of death. The researchers followed participants from the early 1990s for an average of 14 years, during which 2,842 of the women died. More than a third of their deaths were caused by heart and lung ailments linked to smoking.

“These women died too early,” Gram noted, “and they died of illnesses that could have been avoided if they hadn’t smoked.”

Many Norwegian women started to smoke in the 1960s, Gram said, and the negative effects of that trend have showed up in their research. Punitive taxes on tobacco, bans on smoking in public places and restrictions on accessibility have prompted many Norwegians to kick the habit, but the effects of earlier smoking continue to be felt.

“Even though the numbers of smokers in Norway are declining, the wave of smoking-related deaths among women still hasn’t crested,” Gram said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund