Differential effects of cigarette smoking on cardiovascular disease in females: A narrative review and call to action

Diann E. Gaalema, Joseph Allencherril, Sherrie Khadanga, Elias Klemperer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Cigarette smoking continues to be a major driver in the incidence and progression of cardiovascular disease (CVD). As females become an increasingly larger fraction of those who smoke it is imperative that the sex-specific effects of smoking be further explored and acted upon. Methods: This narrative review describes current evidence on the differential effects of smoking on CVD in females and the need to improve treatment. Results: Evidence to date suggests that smoking has disproportionately negative effects on the cardiovascular (CV) system in females, especially in those who are younger. Usually, the onset of CVD is later in females than males, but smoking decreases or eliminates this gap. Females are also more likely to develop types of CVD closely tied to smoking, such as ST-elevated myocardial infarctions, with even higher rates among those who are younger. Possible mechanisms for these worse outcomes in females include a complex interplay between nicotine, other products of combusted cigarettes, and hormones. Sex differences also exist in treatment for smoking. In females, Varenicline appears more effective than either Bupropion or nicotine replacement therapy while in males, all three therapies show similar efficacy. Disparities in smoking are also apparent in secondary prevention settings. Females and males are entering secondary prevention with equal rates of smoking, with potentially higher levels of exposure to the byproducts of smoking in females. Conclusions: These disproportionately negative outcomes for females who smoke require additional research and these persisting rates of smoking suggest a need for female-specific approaches for treating smoking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108013
JournalPreventive Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Estrogen
  • Sex differences
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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