Although men and women are equally influenced by tobacco, males tend to smoke more than females, finds new research that investigated gender differences in tobacco use among hunter-gathering egalitarian tribes.
“Surprisingly, even there, smoking is definitely a male thing,” said lead researcher Casey Roulette, anthropologist at Washington State University.
The study which focused on West Africa’s Aka pygmy tribe found one of the largest recorded male-biased gender difference in smoking prevalence.
The findings showed that a mere five percent of women smoked when compared to 94 percent men.
The high use by Aka men is surprising given that they generally need to work a few days on a neighbouring farm to afford one pack of cigarettes, the researchers said.
While men spend a greater portion of their income on tobacco than women do, female tribe members tend to give away a greater portion of the tobacco they purchase.
“This suggests that men value tobacco more than women do,” Roulette added in the paper published in the journal Human Nature.
While women are not prohibited from tobacco use, the team found that the Aka females shy away from smoking because it can harm their unborn babies and children.
Many simply dislike the taste, while others abstain because it makes them unattractive to suitors.
On the other hand, women in this hunter-gatherer society prefer men who smoke because they link tobacco use to greater risk taking and a man’s subsequent ability to fend for his family. Those women who do smoke tend to be beyond their childbearing years.
“The Aka say that a woman becomes more like a man after menopause, which might also influence smoking among older women,” Roulette noted.