Many doctors and public health experts assume that people smoke cigarettes simply because they're addicted to the nicotine. But a Cornell University researcher and his colleagues have found that overweight and obese teens light up for a different reason: to lose weight. Among U.S. teens who are frequent smokers, 46 percent of girls and 30 percent of boys smoke in part to control their weight, according to the researchers' study. And smoking to lose weight is significantly more common among teens who feel they must slim down.
Girls who said they were "much too fat" were nearly 225 percent more likely to smoke to lose weight than girls who said their weight was about right.
For boys, being overweight was less of a predictor for smoking, perhaps because they feel less pressure from society to lose weight than girls do. Even so, boys who said they were "much too fat" were nearly 145 percent more likely to smoke for weight loss than boys who said their weight was about right.
"This helps us better understand why people choose to engage in risky health behaviors. It's not always just about the immediate pleasure or enjoyment; sometimes it's a means to another end," said the study's author, John Cawley, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell.
Teen smoking is a particularly worrisome public health concern, because people who start smoking by their early 20s are likely to continue in adulthood. And tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the United States.
"One hundred years ago, what we mostly died of were infectious diseases, like tuberculosis and influenza. Now we die from our own choices," said Cawley, who studies the economics of risky health behaviors.
"At all levels of government, there's a realization that we need to find ways to stop teenagers from developing poor health habits." His study, "The Demand for Cigarettes as Derived from the Demand for Weight Loss: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," appears in the January 2016 issue of Health Economics.
Content Originally Published By: Science Daily