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Women and smoking

Women's smoking rates

Tobacco smoking is the single largest cause of preventable death and disease in Australia, with over 19,000 tobacco caused deaths per year. Approximately 6,000 Australian women die prematurely each year from tobacco caused illness. Based on the number of deaths in Australia, it's estimated that around 1500 Victorian women die each year from tobacco related illness.

21% percent of Australian men and 18% of Australian women aged 14 years or over are daily smokers, with highest rates in the 20-29 and 30-39 year age groups. Approximately 24% of Australian women in these age groups smoke on a daily basis.

Health Effects

Tobacco smoking is a significant risk factor for a range of disabling and fatal conditions. For women, cigarette smoking increases the risk of a number of sex-specific health problems.

  • Women who smoke are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Women who smoke and take the contraceptive pill have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and this risk increases dramatically with age.
  • Smoking contributes to peripheral vascular disease (PVD), which occurs when blockages within the blood vessels prevent proper circulation. PVD can cause severe pain and may even lead to gangrene and amputation of a limb.
  • Cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung cancer in women and is responsible for about 65% of lung cancer cases in women. Lung cancer rates and deaths have increased among Australia women reflecting high levels of smoking among females during the 1970s. Smoking increases the risk of cancers of the nose, mouth and throat, oesophagus, voice box, bladder, kidney, stomach, pancreas, liver, anus and blood.
  • Women smokers are at greater risk of health problems relating to period pain, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), pregnancy and their babies' health, and menopause. They are more likely to experience reduced fertility and delays in conceiving.
  • Women smokers may also face difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth, including pregnancy complications, miscarriage and premature birth. There are greater risks of their baby having a low birth weight, being still born or dying shortly after birth, and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Women smokers are less likely to breastfeed. If they do, they tend to produce less breast milk and are more likely to wean their babies earlier. Smoking affects the breast milk, exposing babies to nicotine as well as altering the flavour of the milk.
  • Smoking increases the risk of developing chronic lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These diseases lead to progressive loss of lung function, making it harder to breathe.
  • Smoking contributes to osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), and women smokers have an increased risk for hip fracture.
  • Recent research has also found that women who are currently heavy smokers are at greater risk of having colds which last longer compared to non-smokers.
  • Women who smoke have more facial wrinkles than non-smokers.

Real life stories

2nd chance to keep living

I had a blocked carotid artery which required emergency surgery. I am very happy to be alive. I have smoked all my adult life and now have nicotine patches. I will never touch a cigarette again. A...

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