Various Cigarette butts

Gender and Smoking: How Men and Women Differ

This is a sample from our ‘Quit Cigarettes’ mission, which is currently live in the UK. Our goal is to increase the amount of people in the UK who quit cigarettes. Read more about our first mission here.

Sex, age and income all play a part in how likely someone is to light up, why they begin in the first place and how they quit. We compare and contrast the evidence to see who’s most susceptible.

Anyone can have a cigarette habit, no matter what gender they are. However, there are some differences among the genders in how much we smoke, why we smoke and when we smoke.

Men are more likely to smoke than women. Across the globe, around one fifth of the world’s one billion smokers are female.

But in the UK, the gap between men and women smokers is closing, whereas overall smoking rates have declined. In 1948 it was much more common for men to smoke than women in the UK (65 vs 41 percent), whereas in 2015, 19 percent of men and 15 percent of women smoked

Girls age 11-15 are slightly more likely to try cigarette

In the younger age groups, girls aged 11-15 are slightly more likely to try cigarettes — 5% of this age group have smoked, versus 4% of boys.

Sexual and gender minority (SGM) young adults are more likely to smoke than their non-SGM peers. A recent study which looked at SGM young people and their smoking habits found that transgender participants were heavier smokers than cis gendered participants and those who identified as non-binary. This could be related to higher levels of stress among transgender youth.

What we like to smoke depends on our gender too. British women prefer cigarettes, with hand rolled cigarettes increasingly popular. Women are now nearly 14 times more likely to use hand-rolled tobacco than 30 years ago - from only 2 percent (1990) to over a quarter (27.9 percent) of all female smokers today. Only 2 percent of women smoke cigars, compared to 7.9 percent of men, according to US research and cigar smoking is an overwhelmingly male habit.  

And some people think women smoke cigarettes for different reasons than men, although the reasons why they do so are subject to debate. The research is inconclusive, but suggests that women smoke more in situations of difficulty and negative emotion, while men smoke for stimulation and in pleasurable situations.When it comes to wanting to quit, there is no difference between men and women, but women are 31 percent less likely to quit successfully according to a recent study.

One theory is that this may be down to the fact that women don’t like weight gain which may occur when they stop smoking.

The gender divide is closing when it comes to dying from smoking-related diseases too, at least in the western world. Lung cancer used to be rare in women, but smoking is now the leading cause of cancer death among women in the US, accounting  for 1 in 4 female cancer deaths, with breast cancer in second place.  

Smoking is an issue for all of us.