Up in Smoke

Posted by on Jul 29, 2008 in Uncategorized | 7 comments

I remember the first time I had a cigarette. It was a Kool, purchased surreptitiously from the candy shop across the street from McKinley School. The year was 1969 and I was eight years old.

Yes, I said eight!

It used to be cool to smoke. My girlfriends and I would pretend we were in the teachers’ lounge (remember those?). By the time I got to college, I switched to clove cigarettes. And then afterwards, Marlboro Lights. I was up to a pack and a half a day by the time I stopped smoking. At the age of 30.

This means that I smoked, on and off, for 22 years.

At the age of 46, I had my first night sweat. I turned 47 this past May, and started to address my perimenopausal symptoms more seriously. And started this blog.

You may wonder why I’m sharing these intimate details of my covert and then overt smoking life.

Researchers say that first- and second-hand smoking not only increases the risk for death from heart disease and cancer, but may also significantly increase the risk for starting menopause at an earlier age (i.e., around age 45 rather than the average age of 51).

Data from a cross-section of 5,029 women aged 25 and older participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III have shown that women who were current smokers (as measured by self-reports and blood levels of nicotine) started menopause at a mean age of 47, while women in service industries who were exposed to nicotine in their jobs started menopause at a mean age of 46.

Black women who had been regularly exposed to cigarette smoke had 12 times the odds of other racial groups of an earlier menopause age compared with smokers and nonsmokers who had not had any exposure. The investigators attributed this significantly increased risk among Black women to the body’s inability to clear nicotine from the blood as quickly as their peers.

The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that women in the workplace who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk for many of the same diseases as smokers. They’ve now added early menopause to this list.

What is less clear, however, is the risk for “former smokers,” since they were taken out of the analyses.

Makes you wonder if many of us who are former smokers or were exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis in our homes (a good percentage of women our age, as my sister in law pointed out), are at a higher risk as well.

Sort of like poster children, right?


  1. 7-29-2008

    McKinley School? What city?

    Did the study have data on how long women needed to smoke to affect the onset of menopause? (I smoked for about 10 years… so I’m interested…)

  2. 7-29-2008

    If smoking or secondhand smoke can cause early menopause, isn’t that most everyone our age?

  3. 7-31-2008

    I’m sure the study is valid, and not to poo poo scientific evidence, but, really, my feeling is that it’s all a big crap shoot. I’ve never smoked cigarettes and have been around an average amount of second-hand smoke – and I started having hot flashes from hell at 48. My friend, Kim, has smoked like a fiend since high school, still smokes over a pack a day, and at 50 has regular periods and no hot flashes to speak of. Go figure.

  4. 8-1-2008

    How do they isolate other factors? Like how many years of pregnancy and breast feeding? Like genetics? Like how much grape juice someone has ingested?

  5. 8-1-2008

    Linda, isolating the other factors are done via multivariate analyses that “control,” for these factors.

  6. 9-10-2009

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

    • 9-10-2009

      Sandrar. So glad that you found me! Keep reading!


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