Characterising smoking and nicotine use behaviours among women of reproductive age: a ten-year population study in England

Sarah E. Jackson (Lead Author), Jamie Brown, Caitlin Notley, Lion Shahab, Sharon Cox

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Background: Tobacco smoking affects women’s fertility and is associated with substantial risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes. This study explored trends by socioeconomic position in patterns of smoking, use of non-combustible nicotine products, and quitting activity among women of reproductive age in England. Methods: Data come from a nationally representative monthly cross-sectional survey. Between October 2013 and October 2023, 197,266 adults (≥ 18 years) were surveyed, of whom 44,052 were women of reproductive age (18–45 years). Main outcome measures were current smoking, vaping, and use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), heated tobacco products (HTPs), and nicotine pouches; mainly/exclusively smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and level of dependence among current smokers; past-year quit attempts among past-year smokers; and success of quit attempts among those who tried to quit. We modelled time trends in these outcomes, overall and by occupational social grade (ABC1 = more advantaged/C2DE = less advantaged). Results: Smoking prevalence among women of reproductive age fell from 28.7% [95%CI = 26.3–31.2%] to 22.4% [19.6–25.5%] in social grades C2DE but there was an uncertain increase from 11.7% [10.2–13.5%] to 14.9% [13.4–16.6%] in ABC1. By contrast, among all adults and among men of the same age, smoking prevalence remained relatively stable in ABC1. Vaping prevalence among women of reproductive age more than tripled, from 5.1% [4.3–6.0%] to 19.7% [18.0–21.5%], with the absolute increase more pronounced among those in social grades C2DE (reaching 26.7%; 23.3–30.3%); these changes were larger than those observed among all adults but similar to those among men of the same age. The proportion of smokers mainly/exclusively smoking hand-rolled cigarettes increased from 40.5% [36.3–44.9%] to 61.4% [56.5–66.1%] among women of reproductive age; smaller increases were observed among all adults and among men of the same age. Patterns on other outcomes were largely similar between groups. Conclusions: Among women of reproductive age, there appears to have been a rise in smoking prevalence in the more advantaged social grades over the past decade. Across social grades, there have been substantial increases in the proportion of women of reproductive age who vape and shifts from use of manufactured to hand-rolled cigarettes among those who smoke. These changes have been more pronounced than those observed in the general adult population over the same period.

Original languageEnglish
Article number99
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2024


  • Childbearing age
  • Female
  • Nicotine use
  • Reproductive age
  • Smoking
  • Women

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