"Clearing the Air" Conference Identified Smoking-Related Health Issues Facing American Women

Conference on women and smoking

Officials at the U.S. Public Health Service organized a 1996 conference — "Clearing the Air: Smoking, Girls and Young Women's Health" — designed to provide policymakers, women's organizations, and health care professionals with information on the smoking-related health issues facing American women.

The conference was part of the Healthy Women 2000 conference series. It was organized by Susan Blumenthal, M.D., Director of the U.S. Public Health Service's Office on Women's Health, and held in Washington. Hayes, Domenici & Associates, a McLean, Va. public relations firm, collaborated on the conference as well.

Since 1960 the female mortality rate from lung cancer has risen by 400 percent, overtaking breast cancer as the number one killer of women. While overall the smoking rates have been declining during the past 20 years, cigarette smoking among adolescents has increased annually since 1991. Young women seem to be especially vulnerable to cigarette advertising.

Key Results

  • The conference was held September 12, 1996, in Washington and attended by 350 individuals from more than 60 organizations, including members of Congress, members of the media, and representatives of public- and private-sector organizations concerned with women's health and health care professional organizations.

    The conference received coverage in the local media plus national television coverage on "NBC Nightly News."

    Various facets of this problem were addressed by five conference panels.
    • The first consisted of young women. Some were smokers, some were trying to quit, and some were antismoking. All provided their perspectives on smoking.
    • In the second panel, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and other organizations provided background information about tobacco's impact on women's health.
    • The third panel included a former cigarette model and addressed the issues of the appeal and availability of cigarettes for young women.
    • The fourth examined the role of the media in influencing young women's desire to start or quit smoking and featured Olympic soccer gold medalist Julie Foudy, who spoke about the soccer team's Smoke-Free Kids and Soccer campaign.
    • The fifth panel provided information on programs that were currently working to prevent youth smoking.
  • In order to support dissemination of the conference papers, project staff oversaw publication of an abstract on the conference proceedings entitled "Clearing the Air: Smoking, Girls and Young Women's Health."

    The abstract includes authored articles entitled:
    • "The Scope and Consequences of Smoking for Girls and Young Women."
    • "Epidemiology of Tobacco Use among Young Women."
    • "Initiation of Tobacco Use by Young Women."
    • "Treatment and Cessation of Tobacco Use."
    • "Special Populations."
    • "Tobacco Advertising and Promotion to Women."

    Two thousand copies were disseminated by the Office on Women's Health to women's health centers, regional offices of the US Public Health Service Office on Women's Health, and nonprofit organizations like the American Medical Women's Association.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the conference with a grant of $65,522 between June 1996 and October 1998. Parke Davis Women's Healthcare provided an additional $50,000 for the conference.

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