Women's Unique Smoking Cessation Needs

But women should not be discouraged if they relapse after the big quit day. Each time a woman quits, she can learn about what pushed her to start again. If it's alcohol, perhaps she needs to stay away from bars for a while or have a contract with a friend to take away her cigarette, Morgan says.

Women’s Special Needs

Research seems to show that women may benefit more than men by taking buproprion to help them quit, says Dr. Michael Fiore, chairman of the panel that issued the surgeon general's report. Fiore is also professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison.

The drug, he says, may help address the higher rate of depression women experience when they try to quit.

Although women are concerned about gaining weight when they quit, the NCI's Bloch says dieting is not recommended. Instead of dieting, which can be stressful, women should try to exercise.

Women need to reassess what makes them attractive should they gain the average five pounds to 10 pounds that often show up during quitting, Bloch suggests.

"Nicer teeth and cleaner hair are benefits of not smoking," Bloch says. "After a woman successfully stops smoking, she can then lose the extra weight."

A key time to reach women about quitting smoking is when they are trying to get pregnant, experts say. Women may be more motivated to stop at this time because of the damage smoking can do to the developing fetus and the impact secondhand smoke has on children.

Women who are thinking about getting pregnant or who are pregnant should tell their doctors if they are using nicotine patches or gums, which are available without a prescription, because as with other drugs, doctors should be kept in the loop about what medications the women is taking, says Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Clinic.

Although manufacturers tell pregnant women to seek medical attention when taking these products, Hurt has performed research with pregnant women in their third trimester who used the patch and found the nicotine had no effect on the developing fetus.

Pregnant women, however, may not be apt to tell their doctors about their smoking or quitting behavior, Bloch says, because there is a lot of shame associated with pregnancy and smoking. She warns doctors should not be judgmental and try to help women quit.

"We still have a long way to go to understand the gender differences when it comes to quitting smoking," says Bloch. "But we have some clues now."

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