Girls Often Smoke To Control Weight

I just received this distressing press release. Smoking is a really bad tactic for weight control.

If a girl is concerned about weight and wants to be thin, she has an increased risk of becoming a daily smoker by the time she's 18 or 19 years old, according to a new study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Weight concerns increased the risk for both black and white girls.

The study found that other factors early in life also increased the risk of later smoking, including stress, a parent with high school or less education, being from a one-parent household, drinking alcohol, poor academic performance, and poor conduct. Each factor affected the risk to differing degrees in black and white girls.

The study, which appears in the June issue of Preventive Medicine, was based on data from the NHLBI-sponsored Growth and Health Study (NGHS).

"Getting youths not to start smoking has been very hard," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant." Many environmental, social, and psychological factors are involved in determining which youths are at most risk. By helping to identify key factors involved in girls' decisions to smoke, the study may lead to the development of more effective smoking prevention programs."

"Many of the factors identified in this study as increasing girls' risk of becoming smokers were not even on our radar screens 10 years ago" said lead investigator Dr. Carolyn Voorhees, "and the drive for thinness among black girls has not been previously reported."

National surveys show that teenage smoking, especially among whites, is on the rise, with the biggest increase being among high school seniors. More than 3,000 young persons start smoking each day, according to Federal estimates. Current predictions are that, in the United States, more than 5 million of today's young smokers will go on to die of a tobacco-related illness.

NGHS involved 2,379 black and white girls at three locations- Richmond, California, Cincinnati and metropolitan Washington D.C. The girls were followed for 9 years and were ages 9 and 10 at the start of the study.

Researchers looked at five categories of smoking. The categories were based on the number of days a girl had smoked over 30 days.

Among the study's other key findings:
White girls were more likely than black girls to become daily smokers; black girls were more likely than white girls to become experimental or occasional smokers. For black girls, weight concerns and a drive for thinness at ages 11-12 were the most important factors leading to daily smoking at ages 18-19. For white girls, in addition to weight concerns at ages 11-12, poor conduct and stress at those ages and having a one-parent household were the most important factors associated with daily smoking at ages 18-19.

This is just one more dangerous tactic that women of all ages endure to a greater degree than men, because they hold themselves to an image ideal of weight and shape that becomes ever more impossible.