Finding Out Why it is Harder for Women to Quit Smoking
Sherry McKee, Ph.D.,Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of mortality, yet illness and death associated with smoking continues to rise, particularly among women. Dr. McKee studied the mood and memory processes that contribute to why women have more difficulty quitting smoking and maintaining smoking cessation.
Highlighted Study Findings
In her research, Dr. McKee examined the impact of gender and mood on smoking behavior in a laboratory setting. In this study, daily smokers engaged in a task designed to increase negative or positive emotion, followed by a 30-minute smoking period. For both women and men, negative mood was strongly related to smoking behavior. However, this relationship was stronger in women than in men. Specifically, participants high in negative mood, compared to those with a more positive mood, started smoking more quickly, smoked more cigarettes, inhaled the smoke more deeply, inhaled for a longer duration, and inhaled a larger volume of smoke over the entire 30 minutes. Additionally, if negative mood was high and individuals believed that smoking would help them to feel better, they smoked more cigarettes, smoked more deeply, and inhaled a larger volume of smoke over the entire 30 minutes. The study found that these effects were more pronounced in women. The results of this project advanced our understanding of how mood and specific ways of thinking influence smoking behavior. These findings suggest that when designing more effective ways to quit smoking, it is crucial, especially for women, to include methods for reducing negative emotion as well as for challenging beliefs that smoking is a good means to improve mood.