Quitting Smoking is Harder for Women Than for Men

Quitting smoking is hard to do for most people, but it appears to be even more difficult for women than it is for men, study suggests.

Carried out by researchers at St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, the new study included 233 patients (35% female) who attended a smoking cessation clinic at the hospital at least twice between 2008 and 2018. The participants had an average age of 56 and reported smoking an average of 18 cigarettes per day for 37 years.

To help them quit smoking, all the participants received individualised medical counselling, and if necessary, they will be prescribed medications such as nicotine replacement therapy (gum, lozenge, patch, inhaler, spray), bupropion and varenicline.

The finding, which was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in 2019, showed that after six months in the programme, 25 percent of the participants had quit smoking and 29 percent had reduced the number of cigarettes smoked each day by more than 50 percent.

However, the researchers found that women were half as likely to quit smoking as men.

The researchers point to a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety in women, which might interfere with even the best intentions to kick the habit.

“In our study, women had a higher prevalence of anxiety or depression than men (41 percent versus 21 percent, respectively), which potentially disturbed the smoking cessation process,” explains study author Dr Carolina Gonzaga Carvalho.

“Depression and other mood disorders need to be addressed in women who smoke, especially those with heart disease and stroke,” said senior study author Dr. Beth Abramson, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

“Smoking cessation is the most modifiable risk factor for preventing heart disease in women,” Abramson noted.

Read also: 9 best tips to help you quit smoking

In addition, prior evidence has shown that women’s brains react differently to nicotine, according to Patricia Folan, director at the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health, in Great Neck, N.Y.

“Because of this difference, women may not be as successful in quitting when using nicotine-replacement products – though they may succeed if they take Chantix (varenicline) or Wellbutrin (bupropion),” said Folan.

Folan added that “some women have a fear of weight gain after cessation.” That’s why it’s important to counsel women that after quitting cigarettes, food may taste and smell better, and some weight gain is expected.

So, a larger study of women with patient-focused treatments and tailored therapies, including patient-specific counseling, are needed to address the different biological and social factors involved.

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