Nearly 17 percent of working women in the U.S. aged 18-49 are smokers, according to a recent study.
That means as many as one in six women studied smoke cigarettes, a troubling finding considering smoking kills more women annually than breast cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The knowledge from this study can be used to develop educational campaigns and tobacco cessation programs aimed specifically at women in industries and occupations where many women are still smokers,” said epidemiologist and lead author Jacek Mazurek.
Among the women who smoke, 76 percent are daily smokers; and less than 50 percent of those daily smokers tried to quit in the past year, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study. About 13 percent of the nearly 44.7 million women studied are former smokers.
Smoking is not equally distributed among industries, however. In some industries, like construction, accommodation and food services, up to one-third of women workers are smokers, the study found. Likewise, the women employed as educators and librarians were the least likely to be smokers.
“We know that smoking while pregnant can have adverse effects on a pregnancy and the health of an infant,” said NIOSH Director John Howard. “This study illustrates the importance of workplace tobacco cessation programs, especially in industries and occupations where we see more women who smoke, to help reduce tobacco use and improve the health of women and their unborn children.”
About 3 percent of the women studied were pregnant and, among those, nearly 7 percent were current smokers. Of those smokers, more than half smoked daily.
The study – which was conducted by NIOSH; researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Respiratory Health Division within NIOSH; and the Office on Smoking and Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion – analyzed data from the 2009-2013 National Health Interview Survey.