Smoking is a greater health risk to women than to men. Female smokers have an overall 35% higher risk of stroke, heart attack and cancers compared to men who smoke.
Smoking women are also at risk of additional diseases that do not apply to men. Smoking doubles the rate of cancer of the cervix and increases the risk of breast cancer. Smoking in pregnancy can cause miscarriage and stunts the growth of the baby. It can also cause learning and behaviour problems in the child after birth.
Weight gain after quitting
Many women are concerned about gaining weight. However, one in four quitters will lose weight or stay the same. The health effects of the extra weight are almost always outweighed by the health benefits of quitting.
Research has found that focussing excessively on your diet while quitting is not effective and may reduce your chance of quitting. The best advice is to simply eat sensibly, exercise regularly and accept some weight gain for now.
Tips for female smokers
The best time to quit is in the first week after your period as withdrawal symptoms are mildest at that time. Women find it harder to quit and need extra effort and support:
- If you are using cigarettes to relieve anxiety or low moods, ask your GP about other ways to relax, such as meditation or counselling.
- Smoking in women is often triggered by social interaction, coffee, alcohol and stress. Prepare coping strategies such as avoiding coffee or asking friends not to smoke.
- Women get more benefit from support when quitting. Ask your friends or GP to help you.
Nicotine patches are now available on the PBS and are most effective when combined with nicotine gum or lozenges. Nicotine patches work best if started 2 weeks before quit day. Women often need higher doses of
nicotine than men to quit.
Other effective, subsidised medications are available on prescription from your GP.