The researchers believe that women may find it harder to kick the habit because their confidence in quitting is lower - and because tobacco plays a different role in their lives.

Dublin - Giving women more political and economic control increases female smoking rates, a new study has revealed.

The study, which looked at 74 countries including Ireland, found a link between female political and economic empowerment and smoking prevalence among the overall female population.

In Ireland 47.5 percent of all smokers are women - in contrast to many other countries where men are much more likely to light up.

Governments around the world are being urged to take concerted action to implement tobacco control policies in order to prevent increases in smoking among women, particularly those who are “recently emancipated”.

The findings emerged in a research study by the University of Waterloo, Canada, and are published in the international public health journal, the 'Bulletin of the World Health Organisation' (WHO).

The study pointed out: “A World Bank report estimated that smoking rates among men are five times higher than among women, while WHO studies show that the ratio of female-to-male smoking varies dramatically across countries, with the greatest difference found in low- to middle-income countries.”

Co-author Dr Geoffrey T Fong added: “Our analysis of smoking rates across 74 countries shows that this difference declines as measures of women's status improve.

“However, this correlation between female empowerment and smoking does not mean that women will automatically start smoking if they become empowered.

“Our study makes a strong case for implementing gender-specific tobacco control activities in addition to the policies such as more higher tobacco taxes, more prominent graphic health warnings, smoke-free laws, and advertising and promotion bans.”

It noted that historical investigations show that younger and more educated women are among the first to take up smoking when there is a breakdown of the traditional social norms that act as a deterrent.

However, it also notes that the course of the tobacco addiction may not evolve in exactly the same way across countries.

The authors said more attention must be paid to ways the tobacco industry is capitalising on societal changes to target women. -

Irish Independent