Cigarettes have a reputation for helping people lose weight, and it is common to gain some pounds if you give up cigarettes. This effect is related to both the cigarettes themselves and the physical motions of smoking. A recent study shows that tobacco companies enhance cigarettes' weight loss effect, but former smokers can use several strategies to avoid weight gain.
Weight Loss Effects
Tobacco companies modified cigarettes to give them appetite suppressant qualities as late as 1999, revealed a 2010 study by Swiss researchers, published in the European Journal of Public Health. The researchers reviewed documents from tobacco company archives which showed that appetite suppressant molecules like 2-acetylpyridine and tartaric acid were added to some cigarettes. There is no available data on whether this practice still occurs. Not all cigarette smokers lose weight, so the product does not appear to have consistent appetite-suppressing properties.
Smokers generally weigh six to 10 lbs. less than nonsmokers and gain that same amount of weight if they stop smoking, according to the Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. This data suggests that the increased weight is not a true gain because smokers would have had the added weight if they never started using cigarettes. Those statistics are averages, with 50 percent of ex-smokers gaining less than 10 lbs. and one in 10 ex-smokers packing on as many as 25 to 30 extra lbs.
Quitting and Weight Gain
Cigarette smokers sometimes gain weight when they stop smoking. Some of the effect comes from changes in metabolic rate, which nicotine speeds up. Much of the problem is behavioral, according to the Center for Young Women's Health, because former smokers often replace cigarettes with food. Eating involves similar motions and sensations when you pick up food and put it in your mouth. Limiting yourself to low-calorie cigarette substitutes like vegetable sticks or substituting water for food can help you offset weight gain. Exercise should be part of your quitting plan because it keeps your mind off cravings and burns more calories.
The negative health effects of cigarette smoking outweigh any weight loss and the benefits of quitting usually override the weight gain. For example, you put the same amount of stress on your heart smoking a pack of cigarettes daily as you would if you were 90 pounds overweight. Smoking cessation benefits you in many areas, like reduction in lung disease, stroke, heart attack and cancer risk. Your physical appearance improves because your skin appears healthier and you do not get yellowed fingers and teeth from the nicotine.