By On September 15th, 2014

Overweight Teens May Be At Higher Risk For Smoking

Most parents do everything they can to keep their children from smoking, but a large number of teens still take up the dangerous habit. A new study may help identify which teens are more likely to smoke and why they may be more drawn to cigarettes.

The study, from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that overweight or obese teens are more likely to smoke cigarettes. Surprisingly, despite the increased risk of smoking, these teens were not associated with a higher likelihood of alcohol or marijuana abuse.

The researchers suggest one reason overweight individuals may be more likely to smoke is the myth that smoking helps with appetite suppression or weight reduction. Instead, Christopher N. Ochner, Ph.D., said “people who smoke crave fatty foods more” and there is no connection between cigarettes and weight loss.

The study, published in the American Journal of Health Behavior, collected data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health which surveyed teens about their mental and physical health in 1995, 1996, and 2001. Participants also reported their height and weight in the study to approximately determine body mass index (BMI) and the study included questions about their use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana.

The results showed that high BMI was directly correlated to cigarette smoking in young adulthood, but those teens were less likely to abuse alcohol or marijuana than those with an average BMI.

“For overweight or obese adolescents, the increased desire to improve social standing or fit in with others may also increase the probability of engaging in regular cigarette smoking. Cigarettes may also be used because they are thought to suppress appetite and help with weight reduction,” lead author H. Isabella Lanza, research associate with the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs in Los Angeles, said in a press release.

For many of these teens, smoking may be the result of feeling like they don’t fit in with their peers. While it is perfectly common for church-going individuals to have these feelings, having an open and accepting group of peers such as a church youth group can help improve self-esteem and happiness which may help prevent smoking.

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