These are the findings of Dr. Mildred M. Maldonado-Molina of the University of Florida, Gainesville, and colleagues who analyzed associations between dieting and smoking. Their aim was to see if the desire to lose weight might play a role in the decision to start smoking.
The investigators used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a school-based study of health-related behaviors among girls and boys in grades 7 through 12 in the US.
Data collected from 1994 to 1996 in nearly 7800 teenagers showed that 55 percent of the girls were dieters, and of these, about 35 percent were consistent dieters. Yet less than 21 percent of the girls were considered overweight.
By contrast, more boys were overweight but only about a quarter were dieters, and just 12 percent were consistent dieters, the researchers report in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Teen girls who began dieting during the study period were roughly 1.9 times more likely than non-dieters to begin smoking regularly, the investigators note. Among boys, those who began but stopped dieting were 1.7 times more likely to initiate regular smoking compared with non-dieters.
Furthermore, in both girls and boys, those with cigarettes available in the home (nearly 27 percent overall) were at increased risk for initiating regular smoking, the investigators report.
Overall, dieting does not appear associated with trying smoking, the researchers observe, but female teenagers who initiate dieting appear at risk for beginning regular smoking.