Study Finds Smoking Does Not Keep Young Adults Thin

November 22, 1998

WASHINGTON - While the tobacco industry has named cigarettes "thins" and "slims" in an attempt to capitalize on weight-conscious 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 (APA) Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology indicates that smoking has a negligible effect on body weight.

Researchers, led by Robert C. Klesges, Ph.D., of the University of Memphis Prevention Center, investigated the relationships among smoking, smoking initiation, smoking cessation, and weight change in young adults from the national data set Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA). This is the first study to examine either continuous smoking or smoking initiation and weight gain among 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 follow-ups.

The researchers found minimal evidence of a weight control benefit from smoking (meaning that smoking leads to weight loss or an attenuation of weight gain). Those who smoked, or began smoking, did not lose weight. While smoking was associated with an attenuation of weight gain among Black adults, no such effect occurred among White men or women, the latter being the group most likely to smoke "to control body weight." The finding of little immediate or even long-term (seven years) 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. Thus any weight control benefit derived from smoking is likely to take many years before any significant weight difference occurs in smokers, according to the authors.

The researchers also found that individuals who quit smoking experienced greater weight gain than individuals who continued smoking or never smoked at all. Within the population that quit smoking, post-cessation weight gain was greater for Blacks (13.1 kilograms) than Whites (9.4 kilograms). Since weight gain was common in this cohort of young adults regardless of smoking status (during the study, 54% gained at least 5 kilograms and 29% gained at least 10 kilograms), weight gain attributable to smoking cessation was approximately 4.1 to 6.6 kilograms. Thus while smoking is not a successful mechanism for weight control, smoking cessation has serious long-term consequences for body weight.

"These findings have important public health implications, since the perception that smoking controls body weight is widespread, particularly among youth," said Dr. Klesges, lead author of the study. "Every day, many young Americans begin smoking believing that it will help them lose weight, but these results demonstrate that smoking does not help control weight, and only after decades of smoking do we see a difference in body weights of smokers and non-smokers. 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."

The authors suggest that future research should look at the effects of smoking on body weight among younger participants, since the pre-teen and teenage years are when individuals typically start smoking. While this research focused on smoking and weight gain among Whites and Blacks, future studies should also gauge whether these findings apply to other ethnic groups.
Article: "The Prospective Relationships Between Smoking and Weight in a Young, Biracial Cohort: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study" by Robert C. Klesges, Ph.D., Kenneth D. Ward, Ph.D., and JoAnne W. Ray, Ph.D., University of Memphis Prevention Center, David R. Jacobs, Jr., Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Gary Cutter, Ph.D., AMC Cancer Research Center, and Lynn E. Wagenknecht, Ph.D., Bowman Gray School of Medicine, in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 66, No. 6.

(Full Text available from the APA Public Affairs Office or on the Internet at

Robert C. Klesges, Ph.D. can be reached at (901) 765-6405 or

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 155,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 59 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

American Psychological Association

Related Smoking Articles from Brightsurf:

Smoking rates falling in adults, but stroke survivors' smoking rates remain steady
While the rate of Americans who smoke tobacco has fallen steadily over the last two decades, the rate of stroke survivors who smoke has not changed significantly.

What is your risk from smoking? Your network knows!
A new study from researchers at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication found that most people, smokers and non-smokers alike, were nowhere near accurate in their answers to questions about smoking's health effects.

Want to quit smoking? Partner up
Kicking the habit works best in pairs. That's the main message of a study presented today at EuroPrevent 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Smoking and mortality in Asia
In this analysis of data from 20 studies conducted in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and India with more than 1 million participants, deaths associated with smoking continued to increase among men in Asia grouped by the years in which they were born.

Predictors of successfully quitting smoking among smokers registered at the quit smoking clinic at a public hospital in northeastern Malaysia
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health, Nur Izzati Mohammad et al. consider how cigarette smoking is one of the risk factors leading to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory system diseases and cancer.

Restaurant and bar smoking bans do reduce smoking, especially among the highly educated
Smoking risk drops significantly in college graduates when they live near areas that have completely banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

How the UK smoking ban increased wellbeing
Married women with children reported the largest increase in well-being following the smoking bans in the UK in 2006 and 2007 but there was no comparable increase for married men with children.

Smoking study personalizes treatment
A simple blood test is allowing Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) researchers to determine which patients should be prescribed varenicline (Chantix) to stop smoking and which patients could do just as well, and avoid side effects, by using a nicotine patch.

A biophysical smoking gun
While much about Alzheimer's disease remains a mystery, scientists do know that part of the disease's progression involves a normal protein called tau, aggregating to form ropelike inclusions within brain cells that eventually strangle the neurons.

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.

Read More: Smoking News and Smoking Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to