National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
November 13, 2012 • Volume 9 / Number 22

CDC Update

Global Study Documents Tobacco Use, Secondhand Smoke Exposure among Women of Childbearing Age

In low- and middle-income countries around the world, the prevalence of smoking and other forms of tobacco use among women of reproductive age varies greatly, but heavy exposure to secondhand smoke is common, according to a new study by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization. 

The findings were published November 2 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The researchers, led by Van Tong of the CDC, looked at data from the 2008–2010 Global Adult Tobacco Survey on women aged 15 to 49 in 14 different countries. Overall, the analysis showed that 92 million women were current users of tobacco products; smokeless tobacco use was rare, except in Bangladesh and India.

Smoking rates among women in this age group were extremely low in some countries (less than 1 percent in Egypt and Bangladesh) but high in others (about 30 percent in Russia and Poland). Exposure to secondhand smoke was common; about half the women of reproductive age in these 14 countries—nearly 470 million women—were exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. This exposure varied widely, however, ranging from about 18 percent in Mexico and 26 percent in Ukraine to more than 60 percent in China, Egypt, Turkey, and Vietnam.

"An estimated 62 million births occur annually in these 14 study countries, highlighting the need to protect reproductive-aged women from the harms of tobacco and to promote their health and the well-being of their children," the researchers wrote.

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires countries participating in the treaty to implement evidence-based strategies to reduce tobacco use, including raising prices and taxes on tobacco products, protecting people from exposure to secondhand smoke, enforcing bans on advertising and promoting tobacco products, and providing cessation assistance. These strategies, the authors noted, can prevent or reduce tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure among reproductive-aged women.