Women and Smoking

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Kicking the smoking habit

In a 2010 health survey, more than 70% of women said they wanted to quit smoking. More than half reported that they tried to quit in the past year. The chance of quitting and staying quit is about the same for both men and women, but there may be some ways women are different (see the section below, “Differences between women and men”).

Quitting can help reduce the risk of many of the health problems linked to smoking. The risk of heart disease is greatly reduced just 1 to 2 years after quitting. The risk of stroke can drop to that of a non-smoker within 2 to 5 years after quitting.

Many women are afraid to quit for fear of gaining weight. Some women who quit smoking do add a few pounds, mostly in the first year. It varies, but women gain an average of around 10 pounds after quitting. This amount of weight gain can usually be controlled through diet and exercise. And the health benefits of quitting are much greater than any problems posed by a small weight gain.

Differences between women and men

Some studies have shown there may be differences in men and women who are trying to quit smoking. A few studies, for instance, found that nicotine replacement therapies seemed to help men more than women. Studies of other medicines, such as bupropion (Zyban®) and varenicline (Chantix®) have not found such a difference – men and women had the same success rates. Some of these studies used counseling or group support, which seemed to help both men and women quit and stay quit.

There’s also a question about how monthly hormone changes can affect pre-menopausal women as they’re quitting smoking. Study results have been mixed about whether it works better for women to try to quit during the first or last parts of their menstrual cycles. Most of the studies seem to support the idea that women may have stronger urges to smoke just before their menstrual period is due to start. This is about the same time women may have pre-menstrual symptoms. Because of this, some experts recommend that women quit smoking after the pre-menstrual symptoms have passed.

Get help to quit

You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, quitting tools such as phone-based quitting programs, support groups, and medicines can improve your chances of quitting and staying quit. For more information, see our document called Guide to Quitting Smoking, as well as our other information listed below. You can also call us at 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org to learn more about taking this important step towards better health.

Last Medical Review: 02/07/2014
Last Revised: 02/07/2014