University of São Paulo: Women have twice the difficulty on the first day of abstinence when trying to quit smoking

An article published in the scientific journal Addictive Behaviors by researchers from USP, the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp), the Faculdade de Medicina do ABC, the Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data from 12 low- and middle-income countries and concluded that women are 2.1 times more likely to be part of the group of people who try to quit smoking and give up on the first day.

“It is a known trend in the scientific literature that the male population has much higher rates of smoking worldwide, but that the female population has more difficulty in quitting the habit. This has to do with several factors, such as, for example, the fact that the process of quitting smoking usually leads to weight gain, a more prominent concern for women”, contextualizes João Castaldelli-Maia, researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine. of Medicine at USP and first author of the study.

He explains to Jornal da USP that the team sought to investigate this phenomenon in the 14 countries that concentrate two-thirds of the world’s smokers: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam.

Pakistan and the Philippines could not be included (due to the lack of data and the sampling within the chosen cut-off being statistically insignificant, respectively), so the study looked at the numbers only from the other 12 countries, from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey , an initiative the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA), which collects data on smoking from national surveys conducted in associated countries.



João Mauricio Castaldelli-Maia is a doctoral and master’s supervisor at the Department of Psychiatry at the USP School of Medicine and assistant professor of Psychiatry at the Department of Neuroscience at the Centro Universitário FMABC – Photo: Personal Archive
João Mauricio Castaldelli-Maia is a graduate advisor at the Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine of USP and assistant professor of Psychiatry at the Department of Neuroscience at the Centro Universitário FMABC – Photo: Personal Archive
What this work shows is that women need more support to quit smoking. We need to think of adequate policies for women, considering factors such as different access to medication and unequal pressures related to pregnancy and housework, for example.

The results found by the researchers showed that the number of people who failed to go through the first day of abstinence among those trying to quit smoking varied between 3% and 14% in the countries studied. Globally, women are 2.1 times more likely than men to be part of this group.

This is very important as this initial period is crucial in the long-term success of quitting. A 1997 study , for example, concluded that going through that first day without smoking increases a person’s chances of maintaining abstinence for six months tenfold.

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The survey also took into account factors that change these indicators across countries. In this sense, Castaldelli-Maia points out that the most interesting finding was that the greater the warning images of tobacco harm required on cigarette labels, the lower the rates of this early relapse among women, indicating that this public policy is especially sensitive to this audience.

“What this work shows is that women need more support to quit smoking. We need to think of adequate policies for women, considering factors such as different access to medication and unequal pressures related to pregnancy and housework, for example”, comments the researcher.

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