University of Washington Women's Health
Skip navigation, go directly to content.
About Us | Contact Us | Site Map | Disclaimer
Health Information for Women
Medical Education
Clinics and Services

Teenage Girls & Smoking:
Fact Sheet for Providers

Photo woman professional

The following facts may help you council your patient and understanding the problems related to smoking in your practice. Link to our Tips for Providers for specifics recommendations.


Smoking among teens and young women has increased dramatically over the 1990s.

Smoking among high school girls increased from 17% in 1991 to 34.7% in 1997.

35.2% of female high school seniors are current smokers.

Girls have an easier time buying cigarettes than boys, even at the youngest ages.

Health Effects

Smoking as few as 5 cigarettes a day can reduce lung function growth during adolescence, with teenage girls being more vulnerable than boys. By age 18, teen girls who have never smoked are more likely to reach and maintain a higher maximal lung function than their smoking counterparts.

Girls and women have a more difficult time quitting than boys and men. Women have lower cessation rates and those between 12 and 24 years of age are more likely to report being unable to cut down than men boys and men the same age.

Girls are more likely than boys to report feeling dependent on cigarettes, and more likely to report feeling sad, blue, or depressed during quit attempts.

Tobacco Companies Target Girls

The National Health Interview Survey shows an abrupt increase in smoking by girls around 1967 when cigarette companies began ad for brands especially for women.

Six years after introduction of Virginia Slims and other female brands, the rate of smoking initiation among 12 year old girls increased by 110%. Increases among teenage girls was also substantial.

Marketing cigarettes as "slims" or "thins" plays into social pressures on young women to be slender and more grown-up.

Web resources:

Adapted by
Susan Flagler, DNS, ARNP
Associate Professor
Family and Child Nursing
School of Nursing
University of Washington

top of page

Home |Health Information for Woman | | For Professionals
Clinics and Services | About Us | Contact Us | Site Map

© Copyright 2001-2008, UW Women's Health Center of Excellence.