Quitting may be more difficult for women than men.
You have tried to quit so many times you stopped counting. Your husband or partner just chuckles after you announce, again, that you’ve smoked your last cigarette. You heard that women have a tougher time quitting smoking compared to men, but didn’t dream it would take you so many tries.
The evidence underscores your challenge. Even with all the information on how to quit, one fourth of American women of childbearing age smoke. Some of these known challenges that women experience may apply to you:
- Nicotine replacement therapy doesn’t work as well for women compared to men.
- Women are more concerned about weight gain than men.
- Women’s bodies react to nicotine differently and their withdrawal symptoms are more severe.
- Women offer better support for their husbands trying to quit than their husbands give them.
- Women may be more susceptible to environmental cues for smoking, such as smoking with specific friends or smoking linked with specific moods.
The mood-elevating effects of nicotine are also especially attractive for women. You may find that smoking becomes your best friend. Like a friend, smoking is always there for you. It perks you up when you’re blue, and it’s part of your daily life.
What’s more, you may cling to the notion that smoking keeps weight down. As far back as the 1920s, smoking advertisements touted cigarettes as a diet tool. Actually, 75 percent to 80 percent of smokers do gain weight when they quit smoking. But the average weight gain is less than 10 pounds, which you can lose by a modest increase in activity.
Here are six keys that may help you to quit:
1. Watch your menstrual cycle when deciding when to quit. Studies show that smoking and the menstrual cycle interact. It is possible that women smokers mistake normal menstrual symptoms – such as irritability, anxiety, hunger and decreased concentration – with those of smoking withdrawal. Also, the two may combine for a double whammy. Plan to quit at the end of your period, and you may have fewer and less intense withdrawal symptoms.
2. Cut down on caffeine. Researchers say women who smoke are more likely to drink caffeinated beverages than women who don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking also reduces caffeine’s effects. So, as a smoker, you need almost twice as much caffeine as a nonsmoker to get the same effect. When you quit smoking, your body normalizes its response to caffeine. If you don’t reduce your intake, you might have symptoms of a caffeine overdose, such as nervousness, irritability and tension. These can mimic or add to smoking withdrawal symptoms.
3. Team up with a friend. Studies show that women who try to quit are helped a great deal by the social support of a buddy system.
4. Recognize the differences between men who smoke and women who smoke. Understand that women may have a harder time quitting smoking than men because of biological and behavioral reasons.
5. Cut down first. Whether men choose to quit cold turkey or cut down first may not matter. For women, though, cutting down first is important because their withdrawal symptoms may be more intense.
6. Confront relapses. Many smokers believe that one slip, one cigarette, and you are back to smoking. There is no doubt that a single slip predicts a relapse. But, relapsing doesn’t mean you can’t quit. It’s a setback you can overcome. Women tend to do better in a smoking cessation program that is more oriented toward problem-solving and will help them find strategies to overcome relapses through long-term effort. In contrast, men may be more successful using a “total abstinence” approach