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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

More Gender Injustice: Smoking Cessation Harder for Women

Published December 22, 2008 12:31 PM by Frank Visco
Smoking is bad news for everyone, but judging by some recent studies, it's extremely problematic for women.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say there is no evidence to confirm if men or women have more success in smoking cessation, but that that the process is more intense for women. Apparently, women report more depression, irritability, anxiety and lethargy.

Sound bad? That's only the half of it.

The study also suggests that women experience more weight gain after quitting. The average is five to 10 pounds, and researchers say this makes women tense and thus leads them back to smoking.

Another ominous weight-centered smoking study says teenage girls who smoke 10 cigarettes or more each day are likely to have more weight problems with waist sizes that are 1.34 inches larger than nonsmokers. Researchers reported smoking does not affect men's weight, and suggested gender specific hormones might have something to do with it. They also pulled out the old faithful line that reformed smokers fill the void with food.

And still women face even more smoking-related problems. The Mayo Clinic study also indicated they also have a reduced ability to concentrate post-cessation. This is doubly problematic for women who carry a particular gene for an enzyme that regulates dopamine in the brain. The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine says the enzyme can result concentration problems and other cognitive deficits when abstaining from nicotine and this can support relapse.

While, that last problem can affect male smokers as well, the deck is obviously stacked against women when it comes to smoking cessation. I guess we can add it to the list of reasons why women have way life tougher than men, right up there with chauvinism, pregnancy, and higher societal grooming expectations.


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