Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Learn about the effects of smoking that are unique to women.
Smoking and Women’s Health
People who smoke are more likely to have certain health issues and get certain diseases compared to those who don’t smoke. Some health issues are immediate, while others develop over time. Below are some harmful health effects of smoking that are especially important for women to be aware of.
Women who smoke are more likely than women who don’t smoke to:
- Have more irregular or painful periods.
- Have low estrogen levels, which can lead to mood swings, fatigue, and vaginal dryness.
- Go through menopause at a younger age, and have worse symptoms.
- Have trouble getting pregnant.
Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to get chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This disease makes it hard to breathe, and it gets worse over time. There is no cure for COPD.
- Women are more likely than men to develop severe COPD at younger ages.
- Each year, more women than men die from COPD.
Cardiovascular (Heart) Issues
People who smoke have an increased risk of heart disease—which is the number one cause of death for both women and men in the United States. For people under the age of 50, most cases of heart disease are related to smoking.
- Women smokers over the age of 35 have a slightly greater risk of dying from heart disease compared to men who smoke.
- Women who smoke while using oral contraceptives greatly increase their risk of heart disease. This is particularly true for women who are over the age of 35.
- Compared to men who smoke, women who smoke have a greater risk of dying from an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is a weakening of the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body.
People who smoke have an increased risk of many cancers, such as lung, pancreatic, kidney, liver, throat, bladder, and colorectal cancers. Below is more information about the link between smoking and cancer, specific to women.
- Smoking is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer.
- Smoking causes most lung cancer deaths in women and men. More women die from lung cancer than any other cancer, including breast cancer. There are now more new cases of lung cancer in young women (ages 30–49) than young men.
When you become smokefree, your mind and body will begin to heal immediately. Quitting smoking can improve your mood and give you more energy to do the things you love. It also lowers your risk of getting certain diseases in the future. It’s never too late to gain the benefits from quitting.
Smoking and Pregnancy
Women who smoke may have a harder time getting pregnant. If you do become pregnant, the nicotine from smoking can harm your baby. If a baby is exposed to nicotine during pregnancy, it can affect their development before and after birth.
Smoking during pregnancy can cause many problems for the baby, including:
- Higher risk of being born too early.
- Higher risk of serious birth defects, like a cleft lip or cleft palate.
- Lower chance of a healthy birthweight (more than 5.5 pounds).
- Less likely to have normal brain development before birth and through early childhood.
- More likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome.
Women who quit smoking are making a healthy choice for themselves and their baby during pregnancy and birth. Quitting smoking lowers the risk of miscarriage (loss of the pregnancy) and ectopic pregnancy (a dangerous condition when the embryo implants outside the uterus).
To see a complete list of smoking-related health issues, visit our Health Effects page on Smokefree.gov.