Menopause and smoking: what you need to know

The benefits of quitting and tips on how to do it

Cutting out cigarettes is key for a healthier perimenopause, menopause and for your long-term health.

Here, we look at the benefits and give you tips on how to quit for good.

The impact of smoking on your menopause and general health

Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions including many types of cancer (including breast cancer), heart and blood vessel diseases, and conditions affecting your breathing and lungs [1].

Studies have shown that smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day after the age of 25 increases your risk of an earlier menopause – that is menopause before the age of 45 [2,3,4].

Research has also shown that on average smoking can increase the frequency and severity of hot flushes for menopausal women, and your hot flushes can be affected even if you are exposed to second hand smoke from others near to you [5].

There are so many benefits to stopping smoking and they start almost immediately.

Let’s take a look at the different ways there are to cut down and quit – once and for all.

RELATED: Heart disease, perimenopause and menopause factsheet

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

The main reason that people smoke is because they are addicted to nicotine. Nicotine replacements provide a lower dose of nicotine but without all the nasty chemicals that affect your lungs.

Treatment can help reduce withdrawal effects, such as bad moods and cravings, and you can get them from pharmacies, via prescription or from the NHS stop smoking service. Some GP surgeries also offer appointments with a practice nurse to support you with smoking cessation and can arrange a prescription for some of these replacement products.

They come as either skin patches, chewing gum, inhalators (which look like plastic cigarettes), tablets, oral strips and lozenges, or a nasal or mouth spray. Evidence shows using a combination of methods works best.

Treatment with NRT usually lasts eight to 12 weeks, as you gradually reduce the dose and eventually stop the treatment.

RELATED: Healthy eating for the menopause

Bupropion (brand name Zyban)

Bupropion is a medicine originally used to treat depression that has been found to help people quit smoking [6].

It is only available on prescription (usually via your GP or an NHS stop smoking service) and is taken as one to two oral tablets a day, with a course of treatment usually lasting seven to nine weeks.

Bupropion is safe for most people to take but is not suitable if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for people with epilepsy, bipolar disorder or eating disorders.

Stop smoking services

These services are local to you and provide free expert advice and encouragement from trained advisers either one to one or in a group, along with providing NRT treatments if needed.

The sessions start a couple of weeks before you quit and can be done via phone/video call or in person. Sessions are usually held once a week and last for four weeks after your last cigarette.

Evidence shows if you manage to stop smoking for 28 days, you then have a higher chance of stopping for good [7].

Find your local stop smoking service here.

E-cigarettes or vaping

In recent years, e-cigarettes – otherwise known as vaping – have become a very popular way to stop smoking as they are far less harmful than cigarettes. The nicotine (if present) is inhaled in a vapour rather than a smoke and nicotine on its own is not very harmful.

You’re twice as likely to quit smoking if you use a vape compared with other nicotine replacement products, but as yet, vaping is not licensed as a stop smoking treatment so is not available via a prescription [8].

Vapes come in different strengths and many different flavours. Make sure you buy your vaping products from a reputable retailer so you can be confident they are covered by the relevant safety and quality regulations.

You may experience some side effects from vaping such as coughing, dry or irritable mouth and throat, shortness of breath and headaches.

According to the NHS Better Health website, vaping has not been around for long enough to know the risks of long-term use. This includes the long-term effects of inhaling the flavourings in vapour.

‘While vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, it is unlikely to be totally harmless,’ an article on vaping to stop smoking states.

‘Ideally, if you are vaping to quit smoking, you should aim to eventually stop vaping too.

‘The healthiest option is not to smoke or vape. If you do not smoke, do not start vaping [9].’

RELATED: Living well through your perimenopause and menopause

Benefits of stopping smoking

As well as improving your hot flushes, the benefits to your heart and lungs are almost immediate:

  • After 48 hours, all carbon monoxide is flushed out of your system, your lungs will be clearing out mucus and your sense of taste and smell will improve
  • After two to 12 weeks, your circulation will have improve
  • After three to nine months, any coughs, wheezing or breathing problems will improve as lung function increases
  • After one year, you will have cut your risk of a heart attack by half compared with a smoker [10].

For additional support with changing habits, read our goal setting article. If you’re considering cutting down your alcohol intake, find more here.

References

1. NHS.uk (2018), ‘What are the health risks of smoking?’, www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-are-the-health-risks-of-smoking/

2. Whitcomb B.W. et al (2018), ‘Cigarette smoking and risk of early natural menopause, American Journal of Epidemiology, 187(4):696-704. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx292

3. Mikkelsen, T.F., Graff-Iversen, S., Sundby, J. et al. (2007), ‘Early menopause, association with tobacco smoking, coffee consumption and other lifestyle factors: a cross-sectional study’, BMC Public Health, 7, 149. doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-7-149

4. Cramer D.W., Xu H. (1996), ‘Predicting age at menopause’, Maturitas, 23(3), pp.319-26. doi: 10.1016/0378-5122(96)00992-9

5. Butts S.F, et al (2012), ‘Joint effects of smoking and gene variants involved in sex steroid metabolism on hot flashes in late reproductive-age women’, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 97 (6), E1032–E42, doi.org/10.1210/jc.2011-2216

6. NHS.uk (2022), ‘Stop smoking treatments’, www.nhs.uk/conditions/stop-smoking-treatments

7. NHS.uk, ‘Find your local stop smoking service’, www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/find-your-local-stop-smoking-service/

8. NHS.uk, ‘Vaping to quit smoking’, www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/vaping-to-quit-smoking/

9. NHS.uk, ‘Vaping to quit smoking’, www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/vaping-to-quit-smoking/

10. NHS.uk, ‘Quit smoking’, www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/

Menopause and smoking: what you need to know

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