NHLBI study shows weight concerns increase girls' risk of becoming smokers

Concern about weight and the drive to be thin increase the risk a girl will become 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). Lead investigator Dr. Carolyn Voorhees of The Johns Hopkins University Medical School and an NHLBI Research Fellow at the time of the study, led the analysis with collaborators at the University of California at Berkeley, CA, Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, OH, Westat, Inc, in Rockville, MD, and the Maryland Medical Research Institute in Baltimore, MD.

"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 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, a

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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