Sex, gender, and secondhand smoke policies: implications for disadvantaged women

Am J Prev Med. 2009 Aug;37(2 Suppl):S131-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.05.012.


Context: Although implementation of secondhand smoke policies is increasing, little research has examined the unintended consequences of these policies for disadvantaged women.

Evidence acquisition: Macro-, meso-, and micro-level issues connected to secondhand smoke and women are considered to illustrate the range of ways in which sex, gender, and disadvantage affect women's exposure to secondhand smoke. A review of current literature, primarily published between 2000 and 2008, on sex- and gender-based issues related to secondhand smoke exposure and the effects of secondhand smoke policies for various subpopulations of women, including low-income girls and women, nonwhite minority women, and pregnant women, was conducted in 2008. These materials were critically analyzed using a sex and gender analysis, allowing for the drawing of inferences and reflections on the unintended effects of secondhand smoke policies on disadvantaged women.

Evidence synthesis: Smoke-free policies do not always have equal or even desired effects on low-income girls and women. Low-income women are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke, may have limited capacity to manage their exposure to secondhand smoke both at home and in the workplace, and may experience heightened stigmatization as a result of secondhand smoke policies.

Conclusions: Various sex- and gender-related factors, such as gendered roles, unequal power differences between men and women, child-caring roles, and unequal earning power, affect exposure and responses to secondhand smoke, women's capacity to control exposure, and their responses to protective policies. In sum, a much more nuanced gender- and diversity-sensitive framework is needed to develop research and tobacco control policies that address these issues.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Policy*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Inhalation Exposure / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Poverty*
  • Sex Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control
  • Workplace


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution