Commercial Tobacco and Women

There are many unique health risks associated with women who smoke commercial tobacco.

Women and Commercial Tobacco Smoking: Health Risks

  • Between 1960 and 1990, lung cancer deaths among women have increased by more than 400 percent - exceeding breast cancer deaths.
  • The risk for dying of lung cancer is 20 times higher among women who smoke two or more packs of commercial cigarettes per day than among women who do not smoke.
  • Women exposed to commercial cigarette smoke are twice as likely to develop lung cancer as men.
  • Smoking commercial tobacco is directly linked to 80 percent of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) deaths in women each year and is also associated with greater risk of stroke.
  • Smoking commercial tobacco ages women. Smokers have more facial wrinkles, gum disease, dental decay, and halitosis (bad breath). One study found more women smokers had gone grey by age 40. That risk doubled by age 50.
  • The Surgeon General’s Report concluded that commercial tobacco smokers are more likely to be depressed than nonsmokers and that women with anxiety disorders are more likely to smoke commercial tobacco.
  • Commercial cigarette smoking has many adverse reproductive and early childhood effects, including an increased risk for infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Women who smoke commercial tobacco often have symptoms of menopause about three years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • Postmenopausal women who smoke commercial tobacco have lower bone density than women who never smoked.
  • Women who smoke commercial tobacco have a bigger risk for hip fracture than never smokers.
  • Secondhand smoke from commercial tobacco is a cause of lung cancer among women who have never smoked and is linked to greater heart disease risk.

Women and Commercial Tobacco: Quitting

  • Women who quit smoking commercial tobacco relapse for different reasons than men. Stress, weight control and negative emotions lead to relapse among women.
  • Among people with COPD after one year of quitting smoking of commercial tobacco, women who quit had two times more improvement in lung function compared with men who quit.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2001. Available from:

John E. Connett, Robert P. Murray, A. Sonia Buist, Robert A. Wise, William C. Bailey, Paula G. Lindgren, and Gregory R. Owens, Changes in Smoking Status Affect Women More than Men: Results of the Lung Health Study, American Journal of Epidemiology 2003; 157: 973-979.