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Overweight, Obese Teens More Likely to Smoke Cigarettes

Aug 30, 2014 04:03 AM EDT
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A new study suggests that overweight or obese teenagers are more likely to regularly smoke cigarettes than their leaner peers.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, wanted to know if weight affects a teen's substance-use behavior. The good news is that heavy adolescents are not at a higher risk of using either alcohol or marijuana. However, these teens are more likely to use cigarettes frequently as compared  to others.

Data for the study came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Teens enrolled in the study were asked about their use of marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol.

According to the researchers, cigarettes might be a popular option among heavy teens as tobacco is considered to be effective in controlling appetite.

"Young people smoke cigarettes for a variety of reasons. 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," said H. Isabella Lanza, Ph.D., research associate with the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs in Los Angeles, lead author of the study.

 "I think we will see this play out even more in the public arena with a new generation of youth being persuaded to try e-cigarettes and other forms of 'healthier' nicotine products in order to advance their social standing," she added in a news release.

The researchers used data from at least 15,000 participants, which shows that the link between cigarette-use and obesity might be strong, Christopher N. Ochner, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Ochner said the idea that cigarette suppresses hunger is wrong. In fact, "people who smoke crave fatty foods more," he said.

The study is published in the American Journal of Health Behavior. 

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