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More Young Women Addicted to Cigarettes
In recent years, the smoking rate of Chinese young women has increased rapidly. A survey conducted in the first half of 2002 indicated that, of 320 million smokers in China, 20 million are female, ranking mainly from 15 to 45 years old, and there is a tendency for female smokers to become younger.

Years ago, most female smokers in Beijing were private business people and actresses, but the group has extended to others such as college and high school students.

Xiao Ye, 26, graduated from a famous university in Beijing and is now a newspaper reporter. “I began to smoke four years ago, facing great pressure in job seeking after graduation; several of my female friends had learned to smoke,” she said without any seeming regret. “I am aware of the bad effects of smoking, but it’s hard to give up after having become addicted.” It seems she never thinks about quitting, adding: “at least I can afford it.”

Female smokers like Xiao Ye are no longer rare in the bars, restaurants and on the streets of Beijing. A decade ago, female smokers, especially girls, were regarded as “indecent.”

A survey found that nearly half of 400 female venders in Dashila (a famous business area in downtown Beijing) and a quarter of 40 actresses of a song and dance troupe were smokers. Another survey conducted by the Ministry of Health among four universities in Beijing indicated 14.8 percent of female students smoked.

Holding different motivation like Xiao Ye’s, Xiao Feng learned to smoke only for catering to her boss. She is an employee of a private company, and her boss often smokes in office. At first she was sick of it, but after her boss said “the best defense is offence”, she started to smoke herself and now cannot stop.

More young women smoke because they think smoking is “cool.” Wen, a third year student of Beijing Foreign Studies University, said smoking gives an image of “forwardness or openness. The fair maiden is not popular now.”

Preofessor Zhou Xiaozheng, director of the Society and Law Institute of Renmin University of China, explains this phenomenon as a great change in people’s opinions, and a sort of social progress. Instead of regarding female smoking as immoral conduct or a taboo subject, people now accept it. But smoking itself should not be advocated.

There are still many people strongly opposed to female smoking. Doctor Guan, director of a department in the Beijing People’s Hospital, believes women should never touch cigarettes for the sake of their health, manners and reputation. “A girl with a cigarette between her lips? That is not acceptable! I will never let any of this kind of girl enter my department,” she declared.

(China.org.cn by Li Liangdu, January 18, 2003)

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