How Does Nicotine Intake Affect Men and Women Differently?

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Nicotine is taken in the form of patches, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaping to name a few. This excessive nicotine intake can impact men and women in a number of ways. However, the effects are different on both as well as the reasons for smoking in the first place.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, men consume all tobacco products at far higher rates than women. In 2015, it was found that approximately 16.7% of adult males consumed nicotine compared to only 13.6% adult females.

The reasons for this higher percentage of male smokers range from physical, psychological, and cultural factors and differences between men and women. It is also due to these factors, as well as biological elements, that nicotine impacts both sexes differently. From complicated pregnancies and difficulties in childbirth, to a greater risk of developing alopecia, men and women face different problems depending on the physiology.

1. Excessive Hair Loss from Nicotine Consumption

Hair fall from nicotine is more common than most people believe. From dryness, flaky scalp, to brittle and frizzy hair, nicotine can deteriorate the quality and health of the hair and its follicle in both men and women.

Although anyone can suffer greater hair loss because of nicotine consumption, men are far likelier to be impacted by this. According to 2020 research, it was determined that early-onset androgenetic alopecia, hair fall, and receding hairline were more common in male smokers between the ages of 20 to 35.

While women may also suffer from hair loss, it is far less severe as compared to the impact of nicotine consumption on men’s hair.  

2. The Body’s Reward System Works Differently for Men and Women

The way a human body reacts to nicotine intake depends significantly on one’s sex. Studies on neuroimaging have revealed that smoking of any type creates a greater feeling of happiness and reward among men as compared to women. This proves that men smoke for the thrilling and positive feeling it invokes within them, whereas women smoke primarily to regulate mood.

Other studies pertaining to stress responses in men and women have also deduced that lower levels of stress hormone cortisol during a period of abstinence increased the chances of relapse among men. On the other end of the spectrum, higher cortisol levels were linked to relapse in women.

Cutting out nicotine all together or substituting it with nicotine-free cigarettes increased feelings of depression, withdrawal, and negativity in men more so than in women. Women were also found to gain equal relief from ordinary cigarettes and nicotine-free options, proving that they found the habit less addictive and rewarding than men.

3. Nicotine Consumption May Cause Pregnancy Complications

Nicotine consumption severely impacts women who are pregnant or who are planning to conceive any time soon. In fact, smoking cigarettes, vaping, or the excessive use of e-cigarettes is directly related to a range of poor birth outcomes.

Men do not face the same complex changes to their physiology as women do through nicotine consumption. Firstly, nicotine is notorious for causing low birth weight or even premature birth in most cases. This can be taxing on a woman’s body and dangerous for the baby. In addition to this, babies born to mothers with excessive nicotine consumption face restricted head growth.

Women may also face placental issues during pregnancy or the birthing process due to nicotine interference. In some extreme cases, nicotine consumption is also linked to increased chances of stillbirth or even miscarriage in early days of pregnancy.

Women who choose to continue smoking and absorbing nicotine post-pregnancy find it difficult to quit the habit due to post-cessation weight gain. The stress, risks of body dysmorphia, postpartum depression, and other mental health concerns may increase dependability on nicotine as a source of potential relief.

4. Men and Women’s Bodies React Differently to Nicotine Addiction and Attempts to Quit

There are many factors that lead to increased nicotine addiction in men and women. Their bodies will also react differently to environmental factors.

The research concludes that women will often have a stronger craving and need for nicotine substances. This is especially true for stress-inducing situations where women will find greater relief in smoking cigarettes than men.

On the other hand, men are more responsive to environmental factors and cues. If they see a colleague or a friend smoking, they are likely to join them.

While both men and women did not differ in their desire or intentions to quit, studies have shown that women are 31% less likely to succeed in any attempts to quit the habit.