A study published in the journal Lancet
included data collected from more than two million people. The study found female smokers have a 25 percent greater risk of developing heart disease than males.
The lead authors of the study were Dr. Rachel Huxley from the University of Minnesota and Dr. Mark Woodward from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.
The two researchers found the risk of heart disease in women compared with men increases by two percent for every year a woman smokes. They believe this difference is possibly related to physiological differences between men and women.
Researchers suspect women receive more carcinogens or toxins from smoking the same number of cigarettes than men.
"Whether mechanisms underlying the sex difference in risk of coronary heart disease are biological or related to differences in smoking behaviour between men and women is unclear," the authors wrote
In an interview with Reuters
, Huxley said, "For example, there are some data that indicate women will absorb more of the harmful agents in a cigarette compared to men. Women may inhale more smoke or they may smoke more intensively."
She is planning a similar study to see if the same findings can be applied to other complications from smoking such as strokes.
Ellen Mason,senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, is concerned with the findings because tobacco companies target women by offering slim brands and slick packaging. She wants to see plain packaging and an increase of health warnings.
In a commentary accompanying the study, Matthew A. Steliga of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Carolyn M. Dresler of the Arkansas Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, say: "What makes the realization that women are at increased risk worrisome is that the tobacco industry views women as its growth market."