Gender Differences Extend to How We Smoke and Quit

We’ve long been aware that the male and female bodies are affected by things in different ways, but did you know that the way in which we smoke is yet another to add to the list? In 2001, a study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that women and men are affected by smoking, and likewise quitting, differently. After lighting up, women collectively rates their cigarettes as less satisfying than men did. In another study, women who sampled both standard and low-nicotine cigarettes noted less of a difference in their enjoyment and their perceived nicotine intake than male participants did. These are just some of the findings from this research, which suggests that there is a gap between male and female smokers. The research found suggests that men smoke mainly for the nicotine, whereas women tend to care more about the smell and taste, the hand-to-mouth sensation, the boost to their mood and the weight control. Studies show that both sexes have around the same rate of success with smoking cessation drugs, but nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as the patch of nicotine gum, reveal surprising differences. NRT seems to help both men and women get through the first few months of difficulty on an equal level, but after six months women tend to slide back into the habit at a higher rate than men do.

These differences between gender in smoking addictions may also account for an interesting exception to the NRT gender gap – the inhaler, which is a small, plastic cigarette-shaped device that provides a dose of vaporised nicotine when you take a drag from it. A study carried out in 2001 found that inhalers were more effective for women than men, in the short term, whereas men had more success with gum, patches and sprays. When women stop smoking, they lose both the nicotine and the sensory cues which can make things difficult for them. Replacing these cues with an inhaler rather than with a patch which doesn’t resolve the issue can help them to cope more easily with giving up.

More than half of female smokers state in such studies that their weight concerns are a major issue when quitting. This isn’t surprising but research suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could be well suited to women as it helps them to take the leap over the psychological hurdle, accepting that they may well gain a little weight when they quit.  Women may well benefit from combining CBT with a glance at their menstrual cycles as well. Studies suggest that menstruation has a unique effect on tobacco withdrawal symptoms. Women shouldn’t exacerbate hormonal mood swings with their withdrawal symptoms by trying to quit during the middle of PMS. It’s advised to wait until after the first day after a period starts to quit, so as not to make either problem worse.

If you’re struggling to quit smoking, there are a number of resources available to help you. From helplines to smoking cessation devices, you should be able to find plenty of information on how to quit in a way that suits you. Quitting is always the healthier option – smoking causes a number of health concerns, from increasing your risk of lung cancer and heart disease, to accelerating ageing and causing gum problems. Speak to your GP about ways to quit smoking and cut cigarettes out of your life as soon as possible.

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