TIME Addiction

‘Very Light’ Smoking Is Increasing Among Young American Women

young woman smoking
Artem Furman / Getty Images A young woman smoking

But the habit isn't safe, the authors of a new study warn

For a large swath of young American women, light smoking is growing in popularity, according to a new study.

In new research published in Preventing Chronic Disease, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin were intrigued by other studies that noted a spike in casual smoking in recent years. To find out more about very light smokers, they analyzed a sample of 9,789 women between ages 18 and 25 from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The researchers asked the women if they had smoked part or all of a cigarette in the past 30 days; those who said they had were classified as current smokers, while those who hadn’t, but had smoked previously, were considered “former” smokers.

While heavy smoking—a pack a day—has decreased in the U.S., the researchers found that 27% of all people in the study—and 62% of the current smokers—identified as very light smokers, a habit of five or fewer cigarettes a day. It also can mean skipping smoking some days, then picking up a cigarette every so often. In fact, this kind of casual smoking—what many people often refer to as “only smoking when drunk”—has become predominant, particularly because of its perceived lack of health effects, the study authors note. Many light smokers consider smoking “only once in a while” as not harmful; while they understood smoking to be risky, the authors write, they did not consider the risk as high as non-smokers.

Interestingly, a specific group of women emerged as “light” and “very light” smokers: 18- to 20-year-old single women with some college education.

The research team thinks young women entering adulthood are at particular risk for smoking, perhaps because young adulthood is a time of stress and anxiety and because smoking fewer cigarettes is cheaper than a heavier habit.

But even a very light habit isn’t safe, the authors warn. Research has indicated repeatedly that picking up even one cigarette puts a woman at increased risk for health problems. The fact that the women who are smoking lightly tend to be young and of childbearing age is especially worrisome, they note, since smoking can not only affect conceiving and fertility but can also put women at higher risk for disorders such as cancer of the cervix.

Beyond pregnancy effects, very light smokers are susceptible to the same issues that affect heavier smokers, including depression, psychological distress, and dependence on other controlled substances, the study found. And while the research team did not correlate smoking with binge drinking, they found that heavy and light smokers were similar in their patterns of past alcohol bingeing.

“Social features of college life, including weekend partying, may promote smoking at a very light level among college women,” the authors write. “Emotional distress and multiple substance misuse may serve to both initiate and maintain very light smoking.”

The authors write that anti-smoking campaigns—which tend to focus on heavier smokers—still haven’t yet reduced the “cool” factor associated with taking a drag, even an occasional one.

“Advertising aimed at women attempts to associate smoking with independence, attractiveness, and sophistication,” the study notes. “To meet the challenge of the tobacco industry, smoking intervention programs and policies directed at emerging-adult women need to be based on an understanding of the diverse characteristics…associated with very light smoking in this population.”

TIME public health

Another Reason Why Women Should Avoid Douching

Women who use vaginal douches may have higher exposure to phthalates, a new study suggests

New research adds yet another reason to the list of why women should reconsider douching.

Douching—defined as the washing of the vagina with water or a fluid mixture—is widely discouraged by medical groups, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Medical experts say douching can lead to problems that range from infections to having trouble getting pregnant later on. Still, estimates show that about one in four women between ages 15 and 44 still do it.

Now, a new study published in the journal Environmental Health adds more evidence to the cautionary stance, showing that women who use douches can put themselves at a greater risk for exposure to harmful chemicals called phthalates, which are said to interfere with the body’s hormones.

MORE: Here’s The Staggering Healthcare Cost of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

Washing the vagina in the shower is not the same as douching. Often women use prepackaged mixes that are sold in stores containing water mixed with ingredients like vinegar, baking soda or iodine. Women then squirt the douche through a tube into the vagina. Doing so disrupts the healthy bacteria in the vagina as well as its natural acidity, HHS reports. If women already have an infection or sexually transmitted disease, douching could push that bacteria into the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, where it can cause serious health issues.

The study authors report that phthalates can be found in a variety of personal care products, but that a particular kind called diethyl phthalate (DEP) can be found in items like douches or tampons. By assessing douching use and urine samples, the researchers found that compared to women who didn’t use douches, women who reported douching in the last month had 52% higher levels of urinary concentrations of a metabolite of DEP. Women who used douches two more more times in a month had 152% higher levels of the DEP metabolite in their urine.

MORE: Beauty Products May Trigger Early Menopause

The findings come from the researchers’ assessment of data from 739 women between the ages of 20 and 29 who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001–2004. The women reported their use of feminine hygiene products like tampons, pads, vaginal douches, feminine spray, feminine powder and feminine wipes and had provided urine samples that were measured for metabolites of phthalates. Douches were the only product where researchers saw a significant link to higher levels of phthalates.

Study author Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health, says that since douches are used internally, they may introduce more opportunities for absorption. “There is already reason to be concerned about this practice,” she says. “Now we are saying there may be even more reason to be concerned because these chemicals are entering women’s bodies.”

Zota says data has linked phthalate chemicals to a wide range of health outcomes. “This includes reproductive problems for men and women as well as behavioral and developmental problems in babies due to exposure in the womb,” she says. The National Institutes of Health says that while the human health effects of phthalates aren’t yet fully known, they’re actively being studied by several government groups.

Notably, the researchers also showed that black women were likely at a greater risk, since their use of douches was much higher than other groups. The data shows that close to 40% of black women in the study said they used douches in the last month, compared to 14% of white women and 10% of Mexican American women. Zota says the reasons why women still use douches, despite widespread warnings against their use, are complex. “The literature suggests it involves a preference to feel fresh and clean and to remove menstrual blood and odors,” says Zota. “However social scientists as well as social justice advocates argue that societal forces may also be involved in why African American women in particular use vaginal douches, including pressures to conform to societal beauty norms and targeted advertising to the African American community.”

The researchers say this is one of the first studies to look at the link between feminine care products and chemical exposures in the human body, and that they hope it will become a larger area of research. “There is some research to suggest that these chemicals may be even more readily absorbed in the vagina than through our mouth,” says Zota. “It’s a really important issue, particularly for women’s health.”

TIME Money

Hillary Clinton: A Woman Shouldn’t Have to Share the $10 Bill

"That sounds pretty second class to me"

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticized the Treasury Department on Tuesday for its decision not to remove Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill when a woman is added to the redesigned bill in 2020.

“I don’t like the idea that as a compromise you would basically have two people on the same bill. One would be a woman. That sounds pretty second class to me,” Clinton said in an interview with CNN. “So I think a woman should have her own bill.”

The former Secretary of State also echoed some advocates who argue that a woman should instead be honored on the $20 bill while Andrew Jackson is removed — sparing Hamilton, whom many consider a far superior politician to Jackson, from an unceremonious “demotion.”

The Treasury Department had announced its intention to include a woman on the $10 bill in June, following a high-profile campaign calling for a female likeness to appear finally on a dollar bill. No decision has been made yet to fully remove Hamilton from the $10 bill, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who said officials are “exploring a variety of possibilities.”

The selection of the historic female figure will be announced by Lew later this year.

[CNN]

TIME Soccer

See the Best Moments From U.S. Soccer’s Victory in the World Cup Final

Team U.S.A. trounced Japan 5-2 on Sunday, achieving their third world championship and the first since 1999.

TIME beauty

The Fascinating Difference Between French and American Beauty

Long-term investment versus quick fix

MIMI is a Time Inc. property.

There’s just something about French women. They have a certain chic, classy, and cool vibe that American women have long been trying to emulate. The two countries have vastly different approaches to beauty, and Mathilde Thomas, co-founder of French beauty brand Caudalie, will explain the subject once and for all in her forthcoming book, The French Beauty Solution. According to Yahoo Beauty, Thomas said the key to French beauty is the belief that “beauty is something to give you pleasure. Because when you feel good, you look good.”

When she moved from France to New York City in 2010 to expand her brand, she traveled all over the country meeting customers to find the American concept of beauty was more about pain than pleasure. She said many of the women confessed to making their beauty choices based on “the erroneous notion of no pain/no gain.” Women would tell her about crash diets and irritating skin products because they thought they had to suffer to be beautiful, Thomas said. On the other hand, she and French women believe the notion of beauty should be pleasing to you.

Thomas’s book discusses how American women are all about the “quick fix,” meaning they’ll try an elusive product or procedure that will instantly solve a nagging beauty problem, even if it hurts, is expensive, or is damaging in the long run (whoops, guilty as charged). That’s quite different from the French view of beauty, which Thomas describes as an essential and pleasurable part of the day, and a lifelong and active investment that makes you look and feel good.

In the book, Thomas says, “For the French, our beauty routine is predicated on prevention and upkeep and is regarded as an essential, ongoing investment. What I saw here, however, was much more of a tendency toward the quick solution… And while millions of American women consider beauty a priority in their daily routine, many of their habits are either too complicated, too expensive, too painful, or simply not effective.”

If you want to be more like the French (and who doesn’t), this book is sure to show you the way. It comes out in July but you can pre-order a copy here.

This article originally appeared on MIMI

More from MIMI:

TIME Family

This Is What It’s Really Like to Be a Work-at-Home Mom

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

Your lunches leave a lot to be desired

xojane

When you’re trying to balance working at home and caring for a baby, lots of things piss you off. Anyone who dares to ring the doorbell while your little one is napping. Your husband who gets to shower and put on a fresh set of clothes every morning.

But as for me, nothing pisses me off more than those angelic stock photos of work-at-home moms. Stock photos of work-at-home moms piss. me. off.

You’ve seen them. The baby sits quietly on the mom’s lap, smiling into the camera, while the mom grins at a computer screen like she just found out she won the lottery. Or the mom talks into a cell phone, flashing her pearly whites into the receiver smiling at some invisible business partner while her toddler plays contentedly at her feet.

I even saw one where the baby wore the same oversized glasses as her mother, holding a pen and scribbling on a notepad.

Allow me to burst your bubble. This is a lie. An evil, terrible, self-esteem deflating lie.

I’m not sure what photographer set up the placement for these photos, but here are 10 reality checks about what it’s really like to work at home with a baby:

1. That notebook the baby in that photo was cheerfully scribbling on? In real life, that’s your wall.

And trust me, the fountain pen you gave her to stop her screaming is not washable. Apologies to my landlord.

2. She thinks your body is an amusement park.

Remember when your college boyfriend told you that and you thought it was so sexy? It’s not anymore. It’s really distracting, and usually painful. She’s not just sitting on your lap. She’s sticking her fingers up your nose, pulling your hair, and — crap, why did you decide to wear those dangly earrings today?

3. You will send e-mails that makes you look like an incompetent weirdo.

There’s a reason the baby in that photo has such a wide grin. It’s because she just did something devilishly hilarious. “Dear Prospective New Client, attached please find my proposal fjd;nvskfjnvrjvntrvnwrv 540gvo3fnekvnfv.” Good luck with that new business.

4. You’ll be blind half the time.

Give me my glasses, sweetie. Sweetie, give Mommy her glasses back! Pleeeeease, darling, Mommy needs her glasses to see how pretty you are! Oh, forget it. I’ll just squint and guess.

5. The dog will never forgive you.

Darling, Mommy needs some time. Why don’t you go chase the dog around the house?

6. Your lunches leave a lot to be desired.

While your hubby is getting Chipotle or Chop’t, you’re scarfing down last night’s leftover casserole during the first five minutes of her nap because you’ve got no time to waste! Should you warm it up in the microwave? Nah, that 30 seconds will cost you!

7. You spend half your playgroup time convincing stay-at-home moms that you feel just as much guilt as they do.

Because let’s face it, moms and guilt are just a zero-sum game. When you’re not working, you feel guilty. When you’re working, you feel even more guilty. You need a drink just thinking about it.

8. In spite of what your friends and neighbors think, you don’t have it all.

But what you do have is a whole lot of grit, a ton of talent, and, hey, a PAYCHECK! You go, work-at-home mom!

Jessica Levy wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME celebrity

Age Gap is the New Wage Gap: Just Ask Top-Paid Female Celebrities

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - June 24, 2015
Raymond Hall—GC Images Actress Jennifer Lawrence is seen walking in Soho on June 24, 2015 in New York City. (Raymond Hall--GC Images)

On average, the women on the Forbes List of 100 Top-Paid Celebrities are almost 10 years younger than the men

Aging rockers, has-been radio personalities, and ex-action stars get paid more than A-list actresses. That’s one major takeaway from Forbes’ annual list of the 100 top-paid celebrities this year.

Two things were apparent from this year’s list: women make up only 16% of the top-paid celebrities in the world, and the ones who do make the list are significantly younger than the men. The average age for men on the list was 42– for women, it was 36. If you take out Judge Judy, who at 72 is an outlier by about 15 years, that average drops to just over 33.

In other words: the pay gap is alive and well, even among the richest celebrities, and while male stars are adept at turning youthful success into a lifetime of fame, female celebrity is far more delicate. The average age for men on the 2015 Forbes list does not include the collected ages of The Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac, all ’70s era bands who made the list (Fleetwood Mac includes two women)– if the ages of these men had been included, the average age for men on the list would have been significantly higher. Older guys like Jimmy Buffett (68) Jackie Chan (61) and Howard Stern (61) make the list, but Meryl Streep (66) and Madonna (56) don’t.

The 16 women on the list earned a combined $409 million, while the combined male earnings topped $4.3 billion. More importantly, many of the women on the list tend to be young and beautiful, while older stars are simply not making the cut. Of the 16 women on the list, only a quarter are over the age of 35 (Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Lopez, Ellen Degeneres and Judge Judy.) The other twelve are much younger, including Jennifer Lawrence (24), Taylor Swift (25) and Lady Gaga (29). Almost half of the 16 women on the list are under 30.

To be clear–it’s not Forbes’s fault there are so few women on their list, they’re just the messenger here. This year they expanded their annual list of top-paid celebrities to include international icons, and restricted it to on-camera talent (which might be why Shonda Rhimes and Oprah aren’t on it). They assembled the list by measuring earnings from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015, then subtracted management fees and taxes. That sounds like a fair methodology for determining which celebrities are making the most money.

And yet, women are notably absent. Lots of women who would ordinarily be on the list seem to be taking a little break this year. As Forbes’s Natalie Robehmed explains, in her post about why there are so few women on the list:

Sandra Bullock clocked an impressive $51 million in 2014′s ranking thanks to her solo payday in Gravity, but a quiet 12 months took her out of the running this year. Other seemingly big stars, such as Emma Stone, have yet to see their earnings catch up with their status. Even Melissa McCarthy, who has proven her ability to carry an action/comedy movie solo with Spy, St. Vincent and Tammy failed to break the Celebrity 100′s $29 million barrier to entry.

Of course, there’s also the fact that there’s a pay gap between men and women in most professions, and Hollywood isn’t immune. As Robehmed points out, it’s no coincidence that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams only saw 7% of the profits for American Hustle, while the male actors got 9%. Women are also less likely to be the main character, which means smaller paychecks, and in other countries the gap is even worse– in Bollywood, actresses make about a sixth of what their male co-stars make.

And yet it’s impossible to ignore the age trend at work here. Among the richest celebrities, all the women young, beautiful, and at the top of their game right now– Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Sofia Vergara are all in the prime of their careers. Not so with the richest male celebrities– Jerry Seinfeld hasn’t been on primetime TV in years, and Adam Sandler hit his stride in the early 2000s.

 

In other words: when it comes to top-paid celebrities, the age gap might be just as important as the wage gap.

 

 

 

TIME health

Why I Decided to Have Plastic Surgery at Age 11

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

"Plastic surgery does not make you weak, or mean you’re avoiding your feelings"

xojane

As a kid, I had an unfortunately large, hairy mole on the side of my face.

By hairy, I do not mean a few strands poking through it. It grew its own lock of hair that had to be routinely trimmed. If I had ever let it grow long enough, I could have had a tiny pony tail on the side of my face.

The mass itself was about the size of a dime. As a young child, I found it amusing more than anything else and toddler me giggled at it in the mirror. It was just a thing that was there, not gross or weird or any of the other adjectives I would hear later.

It wasn’t until around fourth or fifth grade that the mole became a source of insecurity. Kids noticed it, and unsurprisingly, kids can be dicks. It was right at the edge of my hairline and I was able to successfully hide it in my chin length haircut as long as my hair stayed in place, but I lived in constant apprehension of who would discover it.

It turned from a quirky birthmark to a source of shame. From ages five through twelve, I never wore my hair up. No ponytails. No buns. Girls in my class got to change their hairstyles while I frantically hid my face behind my hair.

Even when I played soccer and basketball as a kid, my hair stayed down no matter how much it got in my face or how much I sweated into it.

Despite my growing apprehension about it, I still lived with my mole without much ridicule until the summer I went into junior high. There were isolated incidents that were mildly embarrassing, but the worst one happened when I went swimming with two friends.

I wasn’t even thinking about the mole until the water swept my hair back behind my ears. The two girls I was with immediately pointed out my hideous secret with some less-than-sensitive exclamations of “EW what is THAT?” directed at the side of my face. It was mortifying and I wanted to cry.

I had started to become slightly self-conscious about it, but that was definitely the defining moment that made me feel truly isolated by the otherwise harmless growth on my face.

I was about to be a teenager, some of the most superficial and judgmental years of a person’s life. My mother had several small moles on her face that I knew bothered her as well, and even though none were as prominent as mine, she understood what I was going through. It’s painful to know your daughter feels she needs to constantly hide part of her face.

Shortly after the swimming pool incident, she finally suggested the option of consulting with a dermatologist and plastic surgeon and seeing what could be done. We both knew it had to go.

My mole was classified as congenital, which allowed its removal to be covered by our insurance despite being benign.

So at age 11, after being reassured by the plastic surgeon that I would not be left with any major scarring, I went under the knife.

I wanted acceptance. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to like myself. I didn’t see how any of the above were possible with what in my mind was something as disgusting as a second head growing out of my face. While my mother brought the idea up in the first place, I never felt pressured by her to make the call. It was superficial and yet also completely necessary to me.

It’s easy to look back now and say I should have gotten over it. That I would have grown out of it. That someone should have told me I was beautiful the way I was and I should just be myself. (For the record, my mother has always told me that.) That teasing should never be a reason to be anesthetized and wake up with a part of your body physically missing.

We can talk forever about how unfair beauty standards are and their negative impact on young girls, but none of that would have changed my opinion. At the time, I saw removal as the only solution. I know, even today, that no amount of kind words would have made me feel differently.

When you truly dislike something about yourself, compliments sound hollow and patronizing. I regret none of it. I don’t want to know what I would be like now if I still had my mole. I was (and still am) lanky and weird enough without any added help.

My scar is faded now, but when it was still fresh classmates frequently pointed it out and asked about it and even that was painful for me. It triggered my paranoia over someone discovering my mole all over again. I would lie and say it was a scratch or a birthmark just to avoid the conversation.

Nowadays, at 22, I almost forget the mole ever existed. Outside of doctors’ appointments where I have to supply my medical history, it doesn’t cross my mind. Occasionally I tell new friends about it and joke about how “I’ve had a little work done.”

My scar is virtually undetectable but on the off chance someone notices, I do not feel like I need to lie about where it came from. (Clearly, I’ll even tell strangers on the Internet all about it.)

I know cosmetic surgery sometimes has negative connotations, especially when offered to someone so young, but I hardly think I am any worse off. If anything, my life improved significantly and my personality flipped around entirely.

It also isn’t a slippery slope, like so many entertainment news specials reporting on celebrities addicted to plastic surgery imply. I had another mole removed roughly a year after the first one, but have had no procedures since then.

There are plenty of physical features I don’t like about myself, but I have no desire to change them. I also don’t harbor any hard feelings toward the people who picked on me. Kids can be jerks. I can think of situations where I was too. That’s just a fact. (Although I’ll offer some general life advice: If you’re grossed out by someone’s face, keep it to yourself instead of pointing it out loudly like an asshole.)

I don’t want anyone to take my story the wrong way. I’m not advocating slicing off everything you hate about yourself and then feeling perfect forever. I’m just saying that plastic surgery does not make you weak, or mean you’re avoiding your feelings, or taking an “easy way out,” and anyone who feels that way needs to butt out of your personal choices.

I can wonder what I would be like if I hadn’t gone through with the surgery, but I cannot imagine it would have been happier than I am now. I ended up choosing a college nearly thousand miles away from home where I knew no one, something I doubt I would have pulled off if I was still hiding behind my own hair.

Paige Handley wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

Women Keeping Their Maiden Names More Often, Report Finds

It may not be for the reason you think

More women are opting against saying “I do” to changing their last names.

According to a new analysis by New York TimesThe Upshot blog, about 30% of women in recent years have decided to keep their maiden names in some way after getting married. The Upshot finds about 20% keep their last name in full, while 10% have opted to hyphenate their two names.

The number of women who have decided not to take on their husband’s last name has risen since the 1980s and 1990s, when only 14% and 18% of women kept their maiden names, respectively. Women most likely to keep their names are high-income urban women—like those featured in the Times wedding section, among whom some 29.5% have kept their maiden names in recent years, up from 16.2 percent in 1990.

Not every woman opts to keep her surname in the name of gender equality, the newspaper reports. “It’s not necessarily a feminist reason, but it’s just my name for 33 years of my life,” said Donna Suh, who married last year. “Plus, I’m Asian and he’s not, so it’s less confusing for me to not have a white name. And on social media I thought it might be harder to find me.”

[NYT]

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