24 November 1998

Ciggies Don't Help Biggies

While the tobacco industry has named cigarettes "thins" and "slims" in an attempt to capitalize on weight-obsessed young women who believe that beginning smoking will enable them to control their body weight, new research shows that for people under 30, smoking does not prevent typical age-related weight gain. A study of nearly 4 000 white and black young adults (ages 18 to 30) to be reported in the December issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology indicates that smoking has a negligible effect on body weight.

Researchers, led by Robert C. Klesges, of the University of Memphis Prevention Center, investigated the relationships among smoking, smoking initiation, smoking cessation, and weight change in young adults. The researchers classified participants into six groups based on self-reported smoking status (i.e. those who never smoked, regular smokers, and those who quit during the study). Participants' self-reported smoking status and body weight were reassessed at two, five, and seven-year intervals.

The researchers found minimal evidence of a weight control benefit from smoking. Those who smoked, or began smoking, did not lose weight. The finding of little immediate or even long-term weight-control benefit from smoking among young adults goes against the beliefs of both smokers and nonsmokers that smoking helps or control limit weight gain.

"These findings have important public health implications, since the perception that smoking controls body weight is widespread, particularly among youth," said Dr. Klesges. "If young people throughout the nation can learn that smoking has no effect on body weight, it is likely that a significant reduction among smoking in youth would be observed."

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