Can Smoking Actually Make You Gain Weight?

By May Wilkerson 07/16/15

Though people already prone to overeating may smoke to curb their appetite.

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It’s a widely held belief that smoking can make you skinny, like the women in those ads for Virginia Slims. But as it turns out this may be a myth. New research finds that smoking may actually be linked to gaining weight, not losing it.

Though it’s true that people tend to gain weight when they quit smoking (but it’s still better to quit), people who smoke may also gain more weight than those who don’t, according to a study from the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene. Researchers found that among a group of young women, those who smoked gained three pounds in two years, while non smokers gained only two pounds.

The association doesn’t necessarily mean that smoking is directly responsible for weight gain. One possible explanation is that people who are already prone to overeating may take up smoking to curb their cravings, said researchers.

Alternatively, routine tobacco use could impact the brain's reward system, leading to compulsive eating, said the study’s lead author Eric Stice. He says even moderate smoking may be associated with weight gain.

If smoking to lose weight is in fact ineffective, the results of this study could deter young people from picking up the habit. Other rumored benefits of smoking, like the idea that the habit relieves stress, have also been proved false.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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