Smoking and Gender: Health Risks of Tobacco for Women

While it is well known that smoking contains many, severe health risks, we wanted to take this Women’s Day as an opportunity to highlight some risks that are unique to women - and why it is so important for everyone to embark on a harm reduction or cessation journey.

1. Cancer: While smoking in general increases the risk of various cancers, it is particularly associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. Additionally, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer in women, and there are more cases of young female smokers (30-49) developing lung cancer than male smokers.

2. COPD: Women who smoke, within certain age groups, are up to 38 times more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than never-smokers. COPD also kills more women than men and develops more severely in women at an earlier age.

3. Cardiovascular Disease: When compared to men who smoke, women smokers over 35 are more likely to die from heart disease.

4. Reproductive Health: Aside from the known complications that arise from smoking while pregnant, smoking can also lead to pain and irregularity during periods, a decrease in estrogen levels and an increase in the risk of infertility. Smoking may also worsen menopausal symptoms in women, including an increased risk of early menopause and related health issues.

5. Bone Health: Relatedly, post-menopausal women who smoke may have decreased bone density and an increased risk of hip and spine fractures.

Amidst all these negative health consequences, the good news is that it is never too late to quit. You can use this Women’s Day as an opportunity to encourage yourselves and the women in your life to prioritise their health and quit smoking by using tobacco harm-reduction strategies. These strategies, which help offset the varied and gendered consequences of tobacco smoking, are an important tool on the journey to smoking cessation.

You can learn more about tobacco harm reduction here: https://www.tobaccoharmreduction.net/thr

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