Women and tobacco control policies: social-structural and psychosocial contributions to vulnerability to tobacco use and exposure

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009 Oct 1;104 Suppl 1:S121-30. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.05.001. Epub 2009 Jun 10.


This article explores the psychosocial and social-structural vulnerability in relation to women's tobacco use, smoke exposure and responses to policy, and examines these issues in the context of women's lives and roles, describing forward looking strategies that could improve research and equity in outcomes for women. Various literatures on smoking among women and girls, and how women and sub-populations of women respond to tobacco control policies are reviewed. Specific sub-populations exhibiting more tobacco use and exposure are described, such as young pregnant and mothering women and low-income women. Emerging evidence also reveals links between smoking and experiences such as childhood sexual abuse, interpersonal violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues and alcohol and drug dependence. Varied sub-populations of women respond in different ways to price and taxation, sales restrictions and location restrictions. However, tobacco control policies have, to date, been fashioned as broad instruments, not taking into account social context, trauma backgrounds, gendered roles such as mothering, unequal power relations affecting women in relationships and workplaces, and differences in access to resources and social support. When these issues are considered, the implications for tobacco policy development include: widening the policy purview, accounting for uneven and differential responses to policies, committing to an ethical framework, extending sex, gender and diversity based analyses, and improving research methods and approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Health Policy / economics*
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / economics*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*
  • Women's Health / economics*
  • Women's Health / legislation & jurisprudence