The prevalence of smoking among women is like an iceberg. The women do not live for her but nature has endowed them capacity to give birth too. This small indication is enough to focus on the gigantic iceberg, which is less visible than actual size. At present, an estimated 25% of American women smoke. The bad news is that while boys and girls are equally likely to start smoking, the health implications for girls and women are worse. Symptoms of addiction can appear in young people within days or weeks after smoking first begins, well before daily smoking has started. The Surgeon General's 2001 Report on Women and Smoking concludes that young women ages 18 to 24 were more likely than young men to report that they experienced symptoms of nicotine dependence. The introduction of "women's cigarettes" in the late 1960s and early 1970s coincided with sharp increases in the number of girls aged 12-17 who began smoking, according to the Surgeon General's report. Virginia Slims successfully capitalized on the burgeoning women's movement with its slogan "You've come a long way, baby." Between 1967 and 1973, smoking rates more than doubled among 12-year-old girls.
Cigarette marketers target girls in several ways. In addition to depicting women smokers as beautiful, independent and fun, cigarette advertisements continue to send the subliminal message that smoking helps a girl keep her weight down. Marketing cigarettes as "slims" or "thins" subtly reminds girls and women that smoking will help control weight. One study found that girls who dieted more than once per week were four times as likely to become smokers.