Women and Tobacco Use

Smoking and tobacco use pose a serious risk of death and disease for women. Annually, cigarette smoking kills an estimated 173,940 women in the United States.1

In 2008, 21.1 million (18.3%) women smoked in the United States compared to 24.8 million (23.1%) men.2 Although fewer women smoke than men, the percentage difference between the two has continued to decrease. Today, with a much smaller gap between men's and women's smoking rates, women share a much larger burden of smoking-related diseases.

Key Facts About Smoking Among Women

  • Smoking is directly responsible for 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women in the U.S. each year. In 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S.3
  • Female smokers are nearly 13 times more likely to die from COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) compared to women who have never smoked.4 In 2009, an estimated 70,490 women died of lung and bronchus cancer.5
  • Smoking is directly responsible for more than 90 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or emphysema and chronic bronchitis deaths each year.6 In 2006, about 52 percent of all COPD deaths were in women. This is the seventh year in a row that women have outnumbered men in deaths attributable to COPD.7
  • Women who smoke also have an increased risk for developing cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx (voice box), esophagus, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and uterine cervix. Women who smoke also double their risk for developing coronary heart disease.8
  • Postmenopausal women who smoke have lower bone density than women who never smoked. Women who smoke have an increased risk for hip fracture compared to never smokers. Cigarette smoking also causes skin wrinkling that could make smokers appear less attractive and prematurely old.9
  • Women have been extensively targeted in tobacco marketing dominated by themes of an association between social desirability, independence, weight control and smoking messages conveyed through advertisements featuring slim, attractive, and athletic models.10
  • Teenage girls often start to smoke to avoid weight gain and to identify themselves as independent and glamorous, which reflect images projected by tobacco advertising. Cigarette advertising portrays cigarettes as causing slimness and implies that cigarette smoking suppresses appetite.11
  • The decline in smoking among high school girls has slowed recently. Between 1999 and 2003, cigarette smoking prevalence among high school girls decreased by 37 percent. However, between 2003 and 2007, there was only a 2.3 percent decrease in prevalence of cigarette use among high school girls.12
  • Middle school white girls had the highest percentage of smoking (8.6 percent) in 2004.13

Smoking During Pregnancy

  • In 2005, 10.7 percent of women smoked during pregnancy, down almost 42 percent from 1990.14
    • American Indian/Alaska Native women have the highest rate of smoking during pregnancy (17.8 percent).
    • 13.9 percent of pregnant non-Hispanic white women were smokers compared with 8.5 percent pregnant non-Hispanic black women.
  • Since 1990, teenagers and young adults have had the highest rates of maternal smoking during pregnancy.  In 2005, 16.6 percent of female teens aged 15-19 and 18.6 percent of women aged 20-24 smoked during pregnancy.15
  • Neonatal health-care costs attributable to maternal smoking in the U.S. have been estimated at $366 million per year, or $740 per maternal smoker.16
  • Smoking during pregnancy accounts for 20 to 30 percent of low-birth weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries and about 10 percent of all infant deaths.17
  • Maternal smoking has also been linked to asthma among infants and young children. The odds of developing asthma are twice as high among children whose mothers smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day.18
  • The most effective way to protect the fetus is to quit smoking. If a woman plans to conceive a child in the near future, quitting is essential. A woman who quits within the first three or four months of pregnancy can lower the chances of her baby being born premature or with health problems related to smoking.19

 

The American Lung Association has more information available on quitting smoking and our programs to help you do so, our advocacy efforts to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, and tobacco use trends on our website at www.lung.org, or through the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).

 

Sources


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses—United States, 2000–2004. MMWR. November 14, 2008; 57(45):1226-28.
2.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2008. Analysis by the American Lung Association, Research and Program Services Division using SPSS software.
3.
 U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2004.
4.
 Ibid.
5.
 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures, 2008.
6.
 U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2004.
7.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Reports. Deaths: Final Data for 2006. April 17, 2009; 57(14).
8. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2001.
9.
 Ibid.
10.
 Ibid.
11.
 Ibid.
12.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007. MMWR. June 6, 2008; 57(SS-04).
13.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco Use, Access and Exposure to Tobacco in Media Among Middle and High School Students—United States, 2004. MMWR. April 1, 2005; 54(12):297-301. Corrected Data Tables.
14.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Reports. Births: Final Data for 2005. December 5, 2007; 56(10).
15.
 Ibid.
16.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Estimates of Neonatal Health-Care Costs Associated with Maternal Smoking—United States, 1996. MMWR. October 8, 2004; 53(39):912-5.
17.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2001.
18.
 Ibid.
19.
 Ibid.