Nicotine, Cigarette Smoking, and Body Weight


  • Neil E. Grunberg

    1. Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Medical Psychology Department, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, Maryland 20814–4799 U.S.A.
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A century of studies indicate that cigarette smokers weigh less than comparably aged nonsmokers and that many smokers who give up cigarettes gain weight. Behavioural, psychological, and biological explanations have been offered to account for these relationships but most of these explanations have limited empirical support. A recent series of animal and human studies suggest that changes in specific food consumption contribute to the inverse relationship between nicotine and body weight and between cigarette smoking and body weight. This paper reviews and discusses the smoking/body weight relationship, the possible explanations for this relationship, relevant recent studies, and the implications of the findings regarding nicotine and specific food consumption.

It is commonly believed that cigarette smoking keeps body weight down and that cessation of smoking results in excessive weight gains. In fact, some smokers continue to smoke in order to avoid gaining weight [1]. Because an inverse relationship between cigarette smoking and body weight may deter smoking cessation and may even encourage some people (e.g., young women who are concerned about their appearance) to begin smoking, it is important to determine whether the relationship exists and what causes it. This paper first discusses research establishing the inverse relationship between smoking and body weight and then examines possible explanations for the relationship.