Revisiting up in smoke…

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in menopause | 2 comments

smoke on the black background

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 52 this past May, and the sweats continue.

You may wonder why I’m sharing these intimate details of my covert and then overt smoking life, and my sweaty journey…

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?

It concerns me that a new generation of women who are into vaping might end up in the very same place that I and perhaps you did. It’s too soon to tell. However, time to put the myths to risk. Smoking not only kills but it may be setting you up for an early bout of sweats and flashes. Trust me, they’re not fun.



  1. 9-16-2014

    Hmmm..have never heard this. But the big(ger) thing that resonates with me is that 1. you QUIT! 2. I can’t believe you tried a cigarette so young! (Sorry about the early night sweats, though…I know those are tough.)

    • 9-16-2014

      It was a thing back then. I was recently reminiscing with the friend that I used to play teacher’s lounge with. And yes, I did quit; my mother developed breast cancer at the age of 30 and i always promised myself that I would quit then.

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