Why Men Kick Butt

When it comes to kicking the nicotine habit, men and women aren't created equal.

By Natasha Raymond, published on January 1, 2000 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Men are bigger quitters than women—when it comes to smoking, that is. But the reason remains hazy. A study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology shows that, of over 600 heavy smokers who received either a nicotine patch or a placebo, men were, across the board, more likely to quit smoking.

Why are women so hooked on lighting up? Based on past studies, lead researcher David Wetter predicted that it may be because men are more dependent on nicotine than women, which would explain why they fare better on nicotine replacement patches. But his male subjects had greater success in quitting than their female counterparts both with the medicated patch and the non-medicated placebo patch, suggesting that men's greater addiction to nicotine was not the answer.

Next, Wetter, a clinical psychologist at the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, thought the gender difference might be all in women's heads: Female subjects reported more stress before and after quitting than male subjects, and were more concerned about gaining weight after they stopped smoking. But he was "very surprised" to find that these psychological factors had no effect on relapse, thus ruling out this theory, too.

The bottom line: There are big gender differences in the ability to kick cigarettes. But the reasons can't be seen through the smoke.