Using Smoking to Lose Weight

They Didn't Miss a Beat

Women and body image issues are almost synonymous. One seems to be tightly tied to the other, and this fact has not been lost on cigarette companies. The knowledge that nicotine is an appetite suppressant dates back to the old world of Europe and indigenous Americans of the pre-Columbian era. Before the massive overhaul of cigarette advertising, tobacco companies used the connection to their benefit, linking slimness and smoking in their ads, primarily those that targeted women and related body image issues. The facts are still relevant today as research reports that white female adolescents with anxieties around weight issues are prone to begin smoking as a way to manage their weight.

Nicotine - An Appetite Suppressant

Nicotine, despite the negative effects of smoking, is a proven appetite suppressant. As a result, it can influence a person's eating patterns because of its physiological effects on the body. Elevated heart rate, higher blood pressure, and gastric motility cause a decrease in food intake, leading to weight loss. Nicotine can lower insulin levels in the bloodstream which reduces cravings for sugar. Some studies have shown that smokers expend more calories while engaged in an activity, indicating higher metabolic rates. The interaction between nicotine and physiology lead to the conclusion for many young women especially, that smoking is a great way to keep their weight down.

Impact on Adolescent Girls

Adolescent girls seem to be the ones most attracted to smoking for weight control. The desire to be thin opens the door to a variety of behaviors that are risky and lead to unhealthy habits. Research indicates that girls who are already engaged in behaviors for weight control that are unsafe are more likely to pick up smoking as an additional aid in the bid for thinness. Studies also show that adolescent girls do, in fact, consider weight loss or weight control to be a positive value of cigarette smoking.

It Started Long Ago

However, adolescent girls were not the first target for cigarette companies as they linked smoking to the waistline. The first person to seek out the female market using cigarettes was Percival Hill, of the American Tobacco Company. He saw the financial potential in marketing cigarettes as an appetite suppressant to women so they could achieve that tiny waist they so craved.  It also made a statement about women's rights.

The fashion industry, beginning in the 1920s, was targeted as the place to promote using cigarettes as a way to combat eating sweets in order to get a model's body. "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet" was promoted by a very famous spokesperson, Amelia Earhart. Amelia was a noted aviation pioneer and was the first women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross which she earned for being the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was a role model for many a young woman.

And we thought the hype for a thin "model-thin body" belonged to the ‘60s generation!