How Does Smoking Harm Women’s Health?

How does smoking effect women?

There’s no room for debate when it comes to smoking and our health: cigarettes provide our bodies with zero benefits. We also know that the health consequences of cigarettes do not discriminate in terms of gender. However, several relatively recent studies have debated the possibility that women smokers may be more predisposed to certain life-threatening health conditions, including lung damage and bowel cancer.

The unfortunate fact is that 200 million women in the world are smokers, and are continuing to cause a decline in their health every day. In this article, we’ll be discussing the many health risks that women smokers in particular are vulnerable to, and outlining which cessation methods are most effective in quitting smoking for good. 

Women Smokers are More Likely to Suffer from Depression than Men 

While many people choose to smoke in order to relieve stress, this is only short lived. The dopamine release from nicotine ultimately forces the brain to become dependent on the presence of this drug, and will act differently without it. After 20-30 minutes of smoking, nicotine withdrawal sets in alongside feelings of heightened anxiety.

The link between depression and using cigarettes remains unclear, although multiple reports have evidenced that smokers and women in particular are at a higher risk of developing this debilitating mental illness. For now, it’s theorised that nicotine has the potential to damage certain pathways in the brain that are responsible for regulating mood. Researchers also propose that certain genetic triggers may mean that some women smokers are more susceptible to developing depression than others. 

Smoking has Adverse Effects on Female Fertility 

Women who smoke have an estimated 72% of their fertility compared to women who don’t, making it 3.4 times more likely to require over one year to conceive. Researchers have long recognised that the harmful chemicals in cigarettes can cause blockages in the fallopian tubes, accelerate the rate of egg loss, and even increase the chances of ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. On top of these devastating fertility consequences, women smokers who are receiving in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are less likely to be successful than non-smokers.

Menstruation can also be affected, causing longer, painful cycles, abnormal bleeding, infections, and even missed periods despite a negative pregnancy test. Premature menopause is also common, which is believed to be caused by tobacco’s toxic effect on the ovaries or the lowered levels of estrogen that is associated with women who smoke. 

Smoking Combined with Oral Contraceptives can Raise the Risk of Cardiovascular Conditions

As smoking and oral contraceptives can both affect blood flow due to altered hormone levels, together they can increase the chances of cardiovascular issues such as heart attacks or strokes. The toxic chemicals in cigarettes can worsen the strain on blood vessels, which can in turn cause blood clots in the legs, lungs, and veins found in the brain. Of course, this risk of developing these health conditions is significantly lower for non-smokers on birth control. 

The Link Between Smoking and Heart Disease is Higher for Young Women

Sadly, 34,000 women die every year from smoking-induced ischemic heart disease. Concerningly, the risk of smoking-related heart disease is notably higher in younger women who smoke, regardless of pre-existing health conditions. This isn’t fully understood yet, however it is believed to be attributed to the interaction between estrogen and the chemicals that are found in cigarettes.

Smoking Raises a Woman’s Risk of Cervical, Breast and Vulvar Cancer

The chemicals in tobacco can significantly damage the cells in the cervix, meaning women who smoke are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer. More specifically, researchers have claimed that the substances in cigarettes can damage the DNA found in cervix cells, which subsequently increases the risk of developing abnormal cancer cells. Smoking is also known to weaken the immune system, causing the body to become less effective at fighting off cancer-causing infections such as HPV. 

For women who smoke two packs of cigarettes or more each day, the risk of fatal breast cancer can be up to 75% higher than non-smokers. Similarly, women smokers have a 40% higher chance of developing vulvar cancer. The sooner a woman decides to quit, the more they can reduce their risk to equal that of a non-smoker. 

What are the Best Methods for Quitting Smoking?

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help you eliminate cigarettes from your life. Many hopeful ex-smokers often try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as skin patches, oral strips, or nasal and mouth spray to satisfy nicotine withdrawal symptoms. However, without sounding too biased, we recommend taking up vaping instead! 

Not only is vaping a fun activity, but it’s also proven to be more effective than NRT for quitting smoking. It’s also important to know that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than cigarettes as they contain a significantly lower level of chemicals compared to tobacco. Essentially, vaping devices allow users to satisfy their nicotine cravings while gradually reducing their intake at a pace that is comfortable for them. Once this is under control, you can even start to use nicotine free e-liquids and turn vaping into a hobby. 

Now that you’re armed with this information, we hope that you’re feeling more confident about stopping smoking and making the long-term switch to e-cigarettes. Knowledge is key - if you’d like to learn more, head over to our helpful guides hub which is dedicated to all things vaping!