Smoking as a Weight-Control Strategy among Adolescent Girls and Young Women: A Reconsideration

Abstract

Many studies have reported that adolescent girls and young women smoke to control their weight. The majority of these studies are cross-sectional and report on correlational data from quantitative surveys. This article presents data from ethnographic interviews with 60 smokers, interviewed in high school and in follow-up interviews at age 21. Contrary to previous research, this study found little evidence for the sustained use of smoking as a weight-control strategy. In high school, smokers were no more likely than nonsmokers to be trying to lose weight. In the follow-up study, 85 percent of informants replied that they had never smoked as a way to control their weight. One-half of informants at age 21 believed that smoking as a weight-control strategy would be ineffective, while the other one-half had no idea whether it would work or not. Researchers need to exert caution in propagating the idea that smoking is commonly used as a conscious and sustained weight-control strategy among adolescent females and young women.