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People discussing health of women with disabilities
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Removing Disability Disparities in Women's Health, 2005, 1:5


Just the facts!

  • Rates of smoking among women who have physical limitations or disabilities are higher than among other women.
  • A national study showed that younger women with physical limitations were twice as likely to smoke as other women the same age in the U.S.
  • Many women with physical limitations say they smoke to deal with depression and stress.
  • Women with physical limitations are at higher risk of breathing problems, poor circulation, osteoporosis, and skin problems. Smoking increases the risk for these conditions.
  • Women with physical limitations are less likely to be asked by their doctor if they smoke than other women.
  • Tobacco use slows down the healing process.
  • Women who smoke are at a higher risk of having miscarriages and low birth weight babies.

Smoking risks:

  • Smoking or second-hand smoke exposure can cause cancers, stroke, early menopause, facial wrinkling, permanent voice lowering, and urinary incontinence.
  • Smoking doubles one's risk of heart attack.

"You have to make a commitment to a healing path ...[and] look at how you want to change your life."*

Tips from women with physical limitations:

  • Talk with other women who have quit smoking about their problems and successes related to quitting.
  • Ask for support from your family and friends, join a support group, or call a telephone quit-line sponsored by the American Lung Association or similar organizations.
  • Remember- having a physical limitation does not make it OK to smoke.
  • Learn other ways to relieve your stress such as listening to stress-relieving music or taking a slow, relaxing bath.
  • Set a quit date and ask your friends and other loved ones and co-workers to support you by not smoking around you.
  • Make a list of your reasons for quitting and put it where you'll see it everyday.
  • Each time you would normally buy a pack of cigarettes, put that saved money in a special place and use it to reward yourself with something else.
  • Ask your doctor about getting a nicotine replacement product.
  • Be prepared for relapses (or "slip-ups"), and think of persons or organizations to call if you relapse.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip up or relapse.
  • Be proud of your determination to make smoking a thing of the past!

If you are a woman with a physical limitation who:

  • is more severely limited in physical activities,
  • is overweight or obese,
  • already has some health problems stemming from your physical limitation or condition
  • started smoking at an early age,
  • lives on a low income or below the poverty level,

- or -

  • lacks adequate personal assistance

...then you may be at greater risk of health problems associated with smoking.

"I just wanted to stop hurting myself by my smoking."*

Where to get additional information:

"If women see other women doing it [stop smoking], it opens their eyes. This lets them know they can do it too. There's always hope."*

*quotes are from participants in a study by the DisAbled Women's Network Canada, "Relief at What Cost?"

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Houston Endowment, Inc.

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