Tobacco use in the United States continues to be the leading cause of preventable deaths, disease, and disabilities, with nearly forty million adults smoking cigarettes in the United States. Cigarette smoking kills approximately 500,000 Americans each year and smoking-related illnesses cost more than $300 billion each year. It is known to cause lung cancer, mouth and oral cancer, colon cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), premature aging and other chronic illnesses in humans and studies have shown that tobacco use has a strong correlation with mental health disorders. Nicotine dependence is the most common substance abuse disorder among individuals with mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), individuals living with mental illness have a higher rate of smoking cigarettes than the general population and individuals with schizophrenia are three to four times more likely to smoke than the general population. Smoking kills approximately 200,000 individuals living with mental illness each year and this dangerous addiction can also lead to severe developmental and health problem in children who have parents who smoke.

Is smoking tied to weight loss?

Nicotine is an addictive substance found in tobacco that is a stimulant and is believed to curb weight loss. Advertisements since the 1930’s have marketed tobacco as a weight loss remedy that can curb cravings for sweets and many individuals do not want to give up this dangerous habit out of fear of gaining weight. Some studies have shown that nicotine can help curb weight loss by decreasing hunger stimulation and increasing metabolic demands however overtime this theory begins to deteriorate. Long term studies have shown that smokers do not actually weigh less than nonsmokers and this could be due to smokers generally have a sedentary lifestyle and eat unhealthier foods than nonsmokers. Studies have also found that individuals with bulimia or anorexia nervosa are more likely to engage in cigarette smoking however the underlying reason has to do with impulsive behavior rather than weight loss.

The link between eating disorders and smoking

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa are characterized by lack of control and impulsive behaviors. Impulsivity is a primary feature of many disorders including addiction, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and gambling. The sudden urge to eat an excessive amount of food in a short period of time is similar to the immediate need to smoke one cigarette after another. In fact, many recovery and treatment centers allow individuals to smoke cigarettes because they believe by giving up an addiction or an eating disorder can be extremely difficult and cigarettes are the lesser of the two evils. Unfortunately this is false as studies have shown that individuals with eating disorders of any type, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and purging disorder, had increased rates of smoking and higher nicotine dependence compared to the general population. Individuals with eating disorders may use cigarettes in place of food or using cigarettes in an attempt to curb their appetite or avoid social situations because they must step away to smoke. This co-occurring disorder is characterized by impulsive behavior and can lead to even more disturbing behaviors if it goes unrecognized.