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A respiratory specialist suggests that women stop smoking if they want to retain the beauty of their skin. Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan finds out more
DRESSED in a houndstooth cropped jacket and long pleated skirt, she seats herself comfortably on the sofa for the interview. Her face has only light make-up and she looks fresh and young, which she credits to not smoking. But she is aware of the rising number of female smokers.
“Everywhere you go, you see women smoking. It’s bad. Women are so concerned of their looks but smoking, even one puff, can constrict your blood vessels.”
“They will look older than their age and will develop wrinkles faster than those who don’t smoke,” says Professor Dr Roslina Abdul Manap.
She doesn’t consider herself an expert on beauty but she knows about the aesthetic damage smoking does to a woman’s skin.
“Expensive skincare’s useless when you offset the benefits with smoking,” she says.
POWER PUFF GIRLS
Dr Roslina is the head of the respiratory unit at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre. Also the president of Malaysian Thoracic Society, she says there are now more women smokers than men, especially in developed countries.
“Smoking was predominantly a man’s habit until women started working. With the sharp rise in women smokers, we are seeing more women diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.”
In rural areas, COPD may occur due to exposure to wood and charcoal, and closed kitchens in colder climates.
“You know the soot covering the wall of the old dapur kayu in the kampung? After a while, that’s what happens to women’s lungs too,” says Dr Roslina.
But don’t women do yoga and eat healthily now? “To some extent, but look at obesity and diabetes rates worldwide, people are not really taking care of themselves the way they should.”
Female smokers are more susceptible to COPD than male smokers. “Maybe it’s the hormones or how the female body is built. We don’t quite understand why,” she says.
Dr Roslina’s clinical and professional responsibilities include postgraduate training of medical officers in internal and respiratory medicine.
Early diagnosis of COPD, she says, is often difficult because people dismiss the symptoms as “smoker’s cough”.
Should smokers who cough be alarmed?
“Definitely. If you are coughing, get your condition checked by a physician.”
However, Dr Roslina understands that smoking is an addiction that cannot be stopped easily.
“Quitting smoking is a process. Doctors shouldn’t classify a patient as having failed when she can’t quit. With patience and perseverance, hopefully the patient will be able to kick the habit eventually.
“There is psychological dependence on nicotine. It’s physical and not just in the mind. There will be withdrawal symptoms when you stop smoking because you are addicted to the chemical.
“It is the only drug that is legal. And it doesn’t even have any benefit.”
GET IT CHECKED
She suggests that smokers get COPD and lung screening yearly so the doctors can pick up on other symptoms and treatment (if any) can start early.
“COPD used to be known as an old man’s disease but now, younger people are contracting it because they start smoking at a younger age. It takes 20 to 30 years for the symptoms to manifest.”
While the body has its built-in repair mechanism, the ability to repair the damage reduces with the increase of “assault” to the system.
“When there is too much scarring, the body can no longer repair itself.
“Our body is a gift from God. We owe it to ourselves to treat it well so that it will serve us well,” she says.