Background: Smoking in women is a well-recognized public health problem. In many developed countries, cigarette smoking is now the single most important preventable cause of premature death in women. There are relatively few data on the epidemiology of cigarette smoking in Asian women, and this study examined the prevalence of and factors predisposing Chinese women to smoke cigarettes in Hong Kong.
Method: A territory-wide random telephone survey of 26,716 households in Hong Kong was conducted. A total of 1064 current smokers and 291 ex-smokers were identified in these household, and in-depth interviews of 791 current smokers, 221 ex-smokers, and 1012 controls were conducted.
Results: The prevalence of cigarette smoking was 4.5% in women who were 25 years or younger, 2.6% in women aged 46-65 years, and 2.2% in women aged 65 years or older. Sixty-four percent of current smokers started when they were 19 years or younger. The main reasons for the initiation of cigarette smoking were the influence of friends, curiosity, feeling bored, or being idle. Current smokers and ex-smokers tended to have positive images of women who smoked. The following risk factors were found to be significant for cigarette smoking: less than university education, unemployment, being divorced, having a husband who smoked, and a low score on the perceived harms of cigarette smoking.
Conclusion: Cigarette smoking is more prevalent in younger women in Hong Kong; and psychosocial issues should be addressed to prevent future epidemics.