Dieting Teen Girls More Likely to Start Smoking, Study Says

Teenage girls on a diet are twice as likely to start smoking as their non-dieting peers, a new study from the University of Florida has found.

Researchers analyzed the dieting and smoking habits of 7,795 teens and found that dieting did not have the same effect on boys, according to the findings, which were published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

“Dieting was a significant predictor of initiation of regular smoking among females,” said Mildred Maldonado-Molina, the study’s lead author and UF assistant professor of epidemiology and health policy research, in a news release. “We were expecting that this relationship was going to be stronger among females. That has been well-documented, especially because (nicotine) can suppress your appetite.”

The teens were in seventh, eighth and ninth grade when surveyed for the first two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, completed in 1994 and 1995.

“In boys we found something we don’t understand yet,” she said. “We found that those who were inactive dieters, those who first started dieting and then stopped were more likely to engage in smoking behaviors.”

On the bright side, the percentage of teens smoking has dropped since the survey was performed. In 1995, about 35 percent of high school students smoked regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Presently, about 23 percent of high school students and 8 percent of middle school students reportedly smoke. The percentage of girls who smoke is slightly higher in both age groups, according to a 2006 CDC report on tobacco use among youth, the study offered as background.