Decrease in smoking rates for women

Woman breaking a cigarette in half

Today millions more women are smoke-free than 30 years ago. In 1985, 28% of adult women in the United States reported smoking.1 In 2012, that percentage had dropped to 16% of adult women.2

The landmark Surgeon General’s 1964 report, Smoking and Health, was the first federal report to highlight harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy and the first federal report to identify lung cancer as a probable result of smoking in women. The highest smoking rate among American women was in 1963, when 34% were smokers.3

Subsequent reports from the Surgeon General in 1980 and 2001 focused specifically on the health risks women face because of smoking. Women and men who smoke have a greater risk for many health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.4 But smoking also affects women in different ways than men. Smoking can cause painful periods, earlier menopause, infertility, and depression.5 Pregnant women who smoke also increase their baby’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and low birth weight.6

Since 1987, the CDC’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System has collected data from new mothers on their health, including tobacco use. In 1989, 19.5% of women reported smoking during pregnancy.7 In 2010, over half of the women who smoked before pregnancy (54%) quit during pregnancy.8 In 2012, the prevalence of women smoking during pregnancy was down to 12%.9

In 2012, the CDC began the Tips From Former Smokers campaign, resulting in 1.6 million additional smokers making a quit attempt and adding a half a million quality-adjusted life-years to the U.S. population.10

The 2014 Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health highlights the success of federal and state programs and outlines a national strategy for ending the tobacco epidemic. The 2010 Affordable Care Act expands access to smoking cessation services and now requires most insurance companies to cover cessation treatments and medications. The federal government offers free smoking cessation services in many formats – by phone, app, texts, websites, and print publications. Learn more about these free quit smoking resources for women.

Sources

  1. CDC/NCHS, Table 54 (page 1 of 2). Current cigarette smoking among adults aged 18 and over, by sex, race, and age: United States, selected years 1965–2012
  2. CDC/NCHS, Table 54 (page 1 of 2). Current cigarette smoking among adults aged 18 and over, by sex, race, and age: United States, selected years 1965–2012
  3. OSG, Smoking and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
  4. CDC, Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking
  5. women.smokefree.gov, 11 Harmful Effects of Smoking on Women’s Health
  6. OSG,—The Health Consequences of Smoking
  7. CDC, Tobacco Use by Pregnant Women, United States
  8. CDC, Tobacco Use and Pregnancy
  9. CDC,  Trends in Smoking Before, During, and After Pregnancy — Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, United States, 40 Sites, 2000–2010
  10. CDC, Press Release