The rise in smoking among affluent young women raises concerns.

A young girl woman lights a cigarette, she is under stress and the cigarette calms her down

Recent research from University College London indicates a concerning trend: an increase in smoking among middle-class and wealthier women under 45 in England. According to the study, conducted from 2013 to 2023, the percentage of women in this demographic who smoke rose from 12% to 15%, while smoking rates among less advantaged women decreased from 29% to 22%.

Dr. Sarah Jackson, one of the researchers involved, expressed concern over this shift, emphasising the potential health risks associated with smoking, especially for women of reproductive age. Smoking can negatively impact fertility, pregnancy, and infant health, making it crucial to address this trend through targeted interventions to prevent smoking initiation or relapse in this demographic.

The study surveyed 1,700 adults monthly over the ten-year period, including a total of 44,000 women under 45. Participants were categorised based on the socioeconomic status of their households’ highest earners, with more advantaged households defined by professional, managerial, or clerical jobs and less advantaged households by manual, semi-skilled, or unskilled occupations, or unemployment.

In addition to the rise in smoking among affluent young women, the study also noted an increase in the use of hand-rolled cigarettes, particularly among less advantaged female smokers. Dr. Sharon Cox highlighted the need for further investigation into the reasons behind these changes, suggesting that financial considerations and the affordability of smoking may have influenced smoking behavior.

The findings underscore the ongoing challenge of tobacco use, with vaping also on the rise among young women and men. Alizee Froguel of Cancer Research UK, which supported the research, emphasised the urgent need for action to address smoking-related harm, calling for robust measures to prevent smoking initiation and support cessation efforts.

In response to the concerning trends, there has been growing support for legislative action, such as the proposed ban on cigarette sales to individuals born after 2009, aimed at curbing tobacco use and its associated health risks. As smoking remains a leading cause of cancer and mortality in the UK, efforts to combat its prevalence are critical to protecting public health.

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