Why Women Smokers Need Your Help to Quit

Why Women Smokers Need Your Help to Quit

With National Women’s Health Week kicking off May 10, more discussions about how to boost the health of female employees are likely to bubble to the surface.

In addition to providing enhanced resources for stress management and mental health, offering digital, easily-accessible-from-anywhere, effective benefits to help women smokers stop using tobacco is a huge step to improving women’s health.

Research shows 1 in 8 women in the U.S. still smoke, and smoking is the largest preventable cause of death among women in the U.S.

Here is what you need to know about women smokers—and why they need your help to quit tobacco.

Health risks for women smokers are different than men

Women smokers face a list of unique (and costly) health risks.

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women. Lung cancer deaths have outnumbered breast cancer deaths in women since 1987.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Cigarette smoking, as well as secondhand smoke exposure, have been associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Smoking increases the risk of heart attack, and this relationship is more significant in women than men.
  • Smoking is also one of the leading causes of unhealthy pregnancy outcomes in the U.S. In 2016, 1 in 14 (7.2%) women who gave birth reported that they had smoked during pregnancy.
Smoking rates differ by race, education, and income

Smoking rates among women in the U.S. are higher among certain subgroups, varying by race and ethnicity, education level and income.

  • In 2017, smoking rates among white women were 14.7%, 11.3% among black women and 6.7% among Hispanic women.
  • Smoking rates are highest among women who earned a GED diploma, at 36.1%. Among female college graduates, 6.4% are smokers, while only 3.5% of women with a graduate degree smoke.
  • Approximately 23% of women below the poverty level smoke compared with 12.3% of women at or above the poverty level.
Women smokers have a more difficult time quitting

It is well-documented that women often have a harder time with quitting smoking and do not respond as well to some nicotine replacement therapies, compared with men.

These difficulties in quitting may be a result of sex hormone differences that cause women to metabolize nicotine faster than men. This effect is even more pronounced in women taking oral contraceptives.

These differences may explain some unique hurdles women face when attempting to quit using conventional methods.

How can your organization help women smokers?

Helping women smokers quit tobacco starts with offering an effective, easy-to-access program. See the blog, Novel Approaches: What Science Says Helps People Quit Tobacco from our Chief of Innovations Amanda Graham, Ph.D., to learn more about how to be a smart buyer of tobacco cessation that works to help employees quit.

Another key thing to look for is tailored, multimodal support for women’s unique needs. The EX Program, for example, offers tailored text messaging to pregnant smokers and new moms. Through live chat coaching, women also can interact with experts who can help them identify their own motivations for quitting, answer questions about quitting medications, and review a quitting plan tailored to their needs and past experiences.

Plus, women, including pregnant women, can find groups in our online EX Community, focused on their unique needs and experiences.

Want more guidance on how to select a tobacco cessation program that’s right for your population? Download The Buyer’s Guide for Workplace Smoking Cessation Programs now.

See sources for the above cited research and read more about women’s health and tobacco use: The facts about women and tobacco

Jessie Saul, Ph.D.

Director, Strategic Insights

Dr. Jessie Saul brings 19 years of experience in research, program evaluation, and strategic implementation around tobacco cessation. She applies this deep understanding to improve EX Program performance and reduce tobacco use among populations. She earned her Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University.

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