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Part 3: Weight & Body Image

Although most of the girls who participated in the study stated that they smoked to help them relax, many of them specifically mentioned weight control as the primary reason that they started smoking. About a quarter of the girls said that smoking reduced their appetite and felt that it worked as a substitute for eating. The majority of girl smokers wanted to be considerably thinner than they currently were and associated with this attitude was the increased risk of developing an eating disorder. Over 30% of the girls surveyed were afraid that they would eat more and put on weight if they stopped smoking and considered this a significant disincentive to quit.Girls were three times more likely to take up smoking after they started having their periods. Part of the explanation for this is that they mistakenly perceived that the changes which were taking place with their bodies were signs of "fatness". In fact, some of the British girls that took part in the survey claimed that they had lost a stone or more since puberty. Interestingly, although the girls who did smoke were considered moderately overweight, those girls who were classified as very obese were less likely to smoke, perhaps because they were less concerned about their weight or had abandoned efforts to control it.