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Why Do People Smoke?

Since smoking causes 80-90% of lung cancers in both men and women, it is important to look at smoking behaviour.

  • Young women are more likely to start smoking and are less likely to quit[1] [2].

  • Young men and people with less education are more likely to smoke[2], tobacco advertising targets these groups.

  • Men tend to smoke to increase positive feelings while women smoke to shield negative feelings[3]. This is consistent with research that indicates that more female smokers than male smokers are depressed - an estimated 80% of women with a history of depression are addicted to tobacco.

  • Early predictors of smoking at 18-19 years of age include lower parental education, one parent household, drinking alcohol at ages 11-12 and a higher drive for thinness at ages 11-12[4].

  • Among adolescent females, eating disorder symptoms, weight control attempts and thoughts about weight are prospectively related to smoking initiation[5]. These factors were not predictive of smoking initiation in males


1. Day, A. (2002) Women and Lung Cancer: A Health Care Challenge for the 21st Century. The Canadian Journal of Diagnosis, 63-71.

2. Baldini, E.H., Strauss, G.M. (1997) Women and Lung Cancer: Waiting to Exhale. Chest, 112 (4 Suppl): 229S-234S

3. Radzikowska, E., Glaz, P., Rozkowski, K. (2002) Lung cancer in women: age, smoking, histology, performance status, stage, initial treatment and survival. Population-based study of 20,561 cases. Annals of Oncology, 13: 1087-1093.

4. Ward, K.D., Klesges, R.C., Zbikowski, S.M., Bliss, R.E., Garvey, A.J. (1997) Gender differences in the outcome of an unaided smoking cessation attempt. Addictive Behaviour, 22(4): 521-33.

5. Blechman, E.A., Brownell, K.D. (eds) (1998) Behavioral Medicine & Women. A Comprehensive Handbook. The Guilford Press, New York.

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