Generally men tend to use tobacco products more than women. Some studies even suggest there are gender differences in attitudes towards smoking, with men being more compelled to take up the habit. Globally, this means that more than 37% of men smoke, while just over 8% of all women do. Interestingly, though, the latter are 31% less likely to quit smoking successfully. It is also worth noting that the National Institute on Drug Abuse determines that women are more prone to relapsing. With this in mind, read on to know more about the key reasons why women find it harder to quit smoking:
Body image control
Smokers all have their own reasons for smoking–some do it to regulate their stress and anxiety, while some engage in smoking as a social habit. Additionally, there are some who engage in smoking to gain control over their body image issues since cigarettes can suppress appetite. As such, reports from the Women’s Health Research Institute state that many women even turn to cigarettes as a form of weight management.
Given that lots of women experience intense scrutiny for their appearance, this is also one of the main reasons why many who smoke hesitate to quit. After all, despite the many benefits that smoking cessation brings, it is normal to gain up to 10 pounds after quitting. Additionally, since food becomes an alternative for some who cease to smoke, some women may feel compelled to just take up smoking again, lest they begin to overeat.
Nicotine lingers longer for women
After smoking a cigarette, nicotine and its other by-products can stay in a person’s body for around ten days. The more often a person smokes, the more nicotine clings to the body. As a result, one of the reasons why it is difficult to quit smoking is because of how long nicotine lingers in the system. Regardless of how nicotine enters the system, it eventually gets broken down into several components and spreads to the rest of the body. This is why when testing for nicotine, labs can get accurate readings even from samples as varied as urine, saliva, or hair. For women, nicotine tends to linger longer in their bodies since smoking has an estrogen-blocking effect.
Estrogen is a female hormone concerned with reproductive health, though it also affects brain function, blood circulation, and other vital body functions. Since estrogen production is compromised, women’s bodies may have difficulty breaking down the nicotine present in their bodies. This can also cause relapses since the lingering nicotine is not flushed out of the body efficiently.
Stronger withdrawal symptoms
Researchers at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health found that women are prone to relapsing on the first day of smoking cessation when compared with men. The failure to abstain from smoking on day one of quitting can indicate a reaction to withdrawal symptoms. Across the board, withdrawal symptoms are some of the biggest obstacles to long-term cessation. The most common withdrawal symptoms include moodiness, fatigue, and headaches, amongst others. Given that plenty of women smoke for social reasons, the inconvenience of these symptoms makes a relapse seem like the lesser of evils.
Now, while quitting can be a challenge for women, as outlined above, it is not impossible.
How can women quit smoking successfully?
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a method commonly employed to aid individuals in quitting smoking by providing them with controlled doses of nicotine without the harmful toxins found in tobacco smoke.
NRT works by delivering nicotine to the body through various forms, such as nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers.
The idea is to gradually reduce the nicotine intake over time, helping to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings while breaking the psychological association between smoking and certain situations.
Engaging in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is one way to start going smoke-free. Some examples of NRT are nicotine gum and nicotine pouches, which are available in a variety of flavors. These help smokers comfortably wean off of cigarettes while keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay.
It is particularly relevant for women who are trying to quit smoking due to its potential benefits and considerations tailored to their unique physiological and behavioral factors.
Another way to make cessation stick is by recognizing the reasons for smoking and creating solutions around the problem. If smoking is done in response to stress, build a habit of journaling or meditating to avoid touching tobacco altogether. If it’s a weight concern, then it would be better to work on eating healthy and staying physically active.
Giving up smoking is not an easy feat. The different social and health factors surrounding women’s reasons for smoking makes it difficult to fault them for having an unhealthy habit. However, understanding how smoking affects the mind and body definitely helps in determining the most effective way to leave smoking behind for good.