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HEALTH

Booze and cigs ‘harm women more than men’

It appears that men and women are not equal when it comes to booze and fags. The results of a French study, released on Tuesday, revealed women who drink and smoke faced a disproportional risk to their health compared to men.

Booze and cigs 'harm women more than men'
This female smoker and drinker is at greater risk of developing health problems than a male counterpart a new report claims. Photo: Fernando Mafra

Women who smoke and drink heavily are at a higher risk of early death than men who do the same, a French study claimed on Tuesday.

Data taken from a Europe-wide survey of some 380,000 people aged 40 and older, revealed that women faced a disproportional risk from the already well-known ill effects of heavy alcohol and tobacco use.

Of the group, followed over an average period of 12 years, 26,411 died during the study period, said a report by French researchers published in the journal Bulletin épidémiologique hebdomadaire (BEH).

On a risk scale that places never-smokers on level "1", the death risk rose to 1.38 for men who smoked one to 15 cigarettes per day, 1.86 for those who smoked 16 to 26, and 2.44 for those who smoked more.

For women, the equivalent risks were similar: 1.32, 2,04 and 2.44 respectively, said the study.

But the picture changed drastically when alcohol was thrown into the mix.

For men who smoked more than 26 cigarettes and drank the equivalent of more than 30 grams of alcohol per day, the death risk on a separate scale was 2.38 compared to men who never smoked and drank up to a maximum of five grams of alcohol.

For women the risk rose to a massive 3.88.

"Women who consume excessive amounts of alcohol have a significantly higher risk from tobacco use than those who consume little or no alcohol," wrote the authors of the study.

They did not elaborate on the possible reasons for the stark difference.

The study also confirmed earlier findings that current smokers have mortality rates around 1.5 to three times higher than people who never smoked.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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