It’s more “socially acceptable” for men to smoke than women, researchers claim


MALE smokers are more “socially acceptable” than women, researchers claimed.

The study also revealed women light up as a way of “rewarding” themselves when dealing with stress.

The findings were announced in the run up to the seven year anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland.


Women are said to use smoking as tool for "de-stressing"
Women are said to use smoking as tool for “de-stressing” (pic: tsca)


But campaigners said the “gender divide” needs to be addressed in order to help people quit smoking.

The survey of 1,000 people was commissioned by Edinburgh company SkyCig who manufacture electronic cigarettes.

The study examined the differing habits, behaviours and emotions that encourage smokers of both genders to continue their smoking habit.

It found female smokers light up more often alone while men are more likely to use smoking as a bonding activity on a night out.

One in three female smokers said they mainly lit up when stressed but just 25% of males said their habit was worsened by stress levels.

Behavioural Psychologist Jo Hemmings who studied the results said: “As women are more likely to smoke alone as a coping mechanism when compared to men, the psychological effects of nicotine addiction become more accelerated.

“If having a cigarette is a ‘reward’ for overcoming stress or anxiety then becoming dependent on that stress-reward cycle is a much faster process.”

“This divided behaviour suggests that smoking is seen as more socially acceptable for men.

“This is surprising – particularly in the modern day – and could be indicative that women potentially attribute an element of shame to their smoking behaviour.

“This is further supported by the results as for some women smoking is not as enjoyable when compared to men but rather used as a de-stressing tool.”



Smoking has been banned in enclosed public spaces in Scotland since 26 March 2006.

Government statistics for that time show 25.4% of Scottish adults smoked – this figure now stands at 23.3%.

The company’s findings suggest gender differences in attitudes to smoking may have an impact on which type of aid may be most effective in helping smokers quit.

Hemmings said: “One of the problems with smoking is that the behavioural triggers which make people reach for a cigarette have become deeply embedded in their lives, meaning that smoking is often an auto-response, rather than a conscious decision.

“Breaking these embedded habits can be incredibly difficult.

“These psychological factors don’t respond well to simple nicotine replacement based treatments – many smokers need the feel to have the pleasure ritual associated with lighting up – in other words, a cigarette-style prop, without the unhealthy consequences.”

According to ASH (Acting on Smoking and Health) Scotland tobacco generates £940 million a year in taxes for Scotland, but smoking costs the country in the region of £1.1 billion annually.

Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH, called for the marketing of smoking cessation products to be monitored, because they are aimed at a vulnerable group.

She said: “The gender divide is something that could be addressed in helping individuals to quit.

“People smoke for a range of different reasons, and have many reasons for stopping.

“Getting the right support is vital, and the challenge is to provide support in flexible, accessible ways to help as many smokers as possible to quit tobacco successfully.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Smoking cessation services are already tailored to individual needs and we will continue to work to help smokers to quit through services that help ­individuals manage their own health and change their behaviour.

“In particular, Smokeline can help smokers to quit by matching them to a quit method that fits with their lifestyle, including signposting to NHS smoking cessation services.”