Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke is tied to infertility in women and early menopause, according to a new study published in Tobacco Control on Dec. 15. Few have looked at associations between secondhand smoke and infertility, but the new study says that women who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke are more prone to have problems getting pregnant and will likely enter menopause early before age 50.

Andrew Hyland’s team analysed data from questionnaires given to 88,732 women between 1993 and 1998. The researchers discovered that active smokers were 14 percent more likely to become infertile and 26 percent more likely to experience menopause early.

Women who smoked the most began menopause two years earlier than participants who did not smoke. Non-smokers who have been passively exposed to it were 18 percent more likely to have problems conceiving.

Hyland admits that the study does not prove smoking causes these problems. The study also cannot say the exact cause that links smoke exposure, infertility and early menopause. Still, Hyland emphasises that the results advise women to limit exposure to lessen the consequences.

Additionally, Patricia Folan, director of the Centre for Tobacco Control, told Health Magazine that the study provides motivation and incentive for women of all ages to avoid smoking and exposure of the smoke in certain settings. This information is valuable in counselling women about the effects of smoking and benefits of quitting smoking.

In Australia, around eight percent of households are exposed to secondhand smoke. The Australian government reports that people exposed to secondhand smoke inhale the same amount of nicotine as smoking 60 to 150 cigarettes a year.

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