Ever heard that smoking can help you lose a few pounds? If so, you’re not alone. Many people notice that they lose a little weight when they first start smoking, and some continue smoking for fear of weight gain if they stop. New research out this week has shown that the belief that smoking helps with weight loss can have a powerful influence over whether women decide to quit and may even overpower the effects of some of the usual tricks designed to get people off nicotine.
Does smoking really help with weight loss?
The idea that smoking helps with weight loss is a myth, but there’s reason that myth appeared. Smoking can indeed help with weight loss in the short term. This happens for two reasons. First, nicotine is a stimulant that can act in some ways to increase your metabolism and make your body burn a little more energy than usual. Second, nicotine tends to help lower appetite a little bit, so that people who smoke initially eat less. So where does the myth part of the weight loss come in?
The problem is that this small, short-term gain doesn’t pan out in the long run. To begin with, studies have shown that those who smoke more actually weigh more than those who smoke less. Over time, heavy smokers are also no less likely to gain weight than those who are lighter smokers or nonsmokers. On top of that, those who smoke tend to exercise less and eat more unhealthy food than those who smoke less or don’t smoke at all. This is in addition to the cancer, lung disease and heart disease that smoking causes. Smoking doesn’t help you lose weight in the long run, doesn’t make you less likely to gain weight over time, and may actually help you gain weight in the long run.
What were the researchers interested in finding out?
In spite of the many ways smoking damages health, many surveys have shown that some people are reluctant to stop smoking because they think their smoking is helping them lose weight or worry they’ll gain weight if they do. The research team wondered how significant that effect was and whether it could be overcome by increases in the price of cigarettes or antismoking advertising. To do this, the researchers took data from a study called the ITC project that gathers information about smokers in 22 different countries. The team looked at smokers in the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and Canada and gathered data on how much cigarettes cost in various regions and how much advertising there is to combat smoking.
What did the researchers find?
The analysis showed that women are heavily affected by beliefs about cigarettes and weight loss. Female smokers who thought cigarettes helped lose weight were less likely to try and quit smoking than women who didn’t believe that to be the case. On top of that, women who believed in weight loss with smoking seemed unaffected by price hikes that normally propel people to consider dropping the habit. The same effect was seen for antismoking ad campaigns, where weight-loss believers seemed to ignore negative ads that sent many of their counterparts to quit centers.
How does this affect me?
If you’re a woman and you smoke, you’ve probably at least heard that cigarettes help you lose weight. If you believe they do, this study shows that’s probably stopping you from quitting, even when you know you’re paying too much for your cigarettes and hearing how bad they are for you. Given that cigarettes don’t help with weight loss, may help you gain weight and have a variety of other deadly health consequences, nothing should hold you back from trying to quit.