Gender differences in first and secondhand smoke exposure, spirometric lung function and cardiometabolic health in the old order Amish: A novel population without female smoking

Academic Article


  • Due to their relatively homogeneous lifestyle and living environment, the Amish offer a novel opportunity to study the health associations of tobacco smoke exposure, particularly secondhand smoke. We hypothesized that secondhand smoke exposure is associated with worse pulmonary and cardiometabolic health. We examined cross-sectional data on 3568 Amish study participants, including tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure from family members included in the study. Thirty-four percent of Amish men reported ever smoking. Of this proportion, 64% used cigars, 46% cigarettes, and 21% pipes. Less than 1% of women reported ever smoking. Smoking was associated with lower spirometric lung function, higher body mass index, lower HDL cholesterol, higher heart rate, lower ankle-brachial index, and larger aortic diameter in men. A greater number of sources of secondhand smoke exposure (defined from the total of spouses, parents, and siblings who smoke) was associated with higher body mass index (p =0.03) and with higher fasting glucose in men (p =0.01), but not in women (p =0.007 for sex-secondhand smoke interaction). Secondhand smoke exposure was also associated with reduced HDL cholesterol only in women (p =0.002) and a lower heart rate only in men (p =0.006). Smoking habits among the Old Order Amish are notable for the absence of female participation and a high proportion of cigar and pipe use. Smoking is associated with decreased spirometric indices of lung function and increased cardiovascular risk in this population and secondhand smoke exposure is associated with a greater burden of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Sex differences in correlations could reflect differences in exposure patterns, mechanisms, or susceptibilities.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • PLoS One  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Reed RM; Dransfield MT; Eberlein M; Miller M; Netzer G; Pavlovich M; Pollin TI; Scharf SM; Shuldiner AR; Sin D
  • Volume

  • 12
  • Issue

  • 3