Women's Heart Health

Men and Women Smoke—and Quit—Differently

Studies have shown that after six months on nicotine replacement products, women slide back into the habit at higher rates than men.
In 2001, a group of young cigarette smokers was fitted with opaque goggles and nose clips at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. After lighting up, the women in the group collectively rated their cigarettes less "satisfying" than the men did. In another study, women who sampled both standard and low-nicotine cigarettes noted less of a difference in their enjoyment and perceived nicotine intake than male participants did.

These are just a few of the research findings into what has emerged as an apparent gender gap between male and female smokers. This research suggests that men smoke mainly for the nicotine, while women tend to care about the smell and taste, the hand-to-mouth sensation, weight control, and boosting their moods.

Although no one really understands what causes these differences, experts say considering them as you implement your quitting strategy might just give you an edge.

Nicotine replacement doesnt work as well for women
The sexes have about the same rates of success with prescription smoking-cessation drugs, but studies of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as the patch and nicotine gum, reveal differences. NRT seems to help both men and women get through those tricky first few months without cigarettes, but after six months, women slide back into the habit at higher rates than men.

On the other hand, gender differences in smoking addiction may also account for an interesting exception to the NRT gender gap: the inhaler, the small, plastic cigarette-holder-shaped device that provides a dose of vaporized nicotine when you take a determined drag from it. In a 2001 study of 504 smokers, inhalers proved more effective for women than for men (at least in the short term), while men experienced more success with the other three options: spray, patch, and especially gum.

"Women lose both the sensory cues and the nicotine when they quit smoking," Cora Lee Wetherington, PhD, explained in a 2002 article by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), where she is the women and gender research coordinator. "Therefore, replacing those cues—something the inhaler can do, but not the patch or gum—and learning ways to avoid or cope with those cues may help more women succeed in quitting."

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