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Heavy Teens more likely to Become Smokers

Update Date: Aug 29, 2014 10:25 AM EDT

Weight can affect teenagers' decisions to use certain drugs, a new study reported. According to the researchers, teens that were overweight or obese were more likely to smoke cigarettes. However, their weight did not influence their decision to use alcohol or marijuana.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data gathered by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which collected information on teens' mental and physical health as well as their drug use in 1995, 1996 and 2001. In 2001, more than 15,000 people participated.

Based on this data, the researchers found that young adults and teens with a higher body mass index (BMI), which is a measurement of obesity, were more likely to pick up smoking. BMI measurements that were categorized as overweight or obese were not linked to an increased risk of drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana.

"Young people smoke cigarettes for a variety of reasons. For overweight or obese adolescents, the increased desire to improve social standing or fit in with others may also increase the probability of engaging in regular cigarette smoking," said lead author H. Isabella Lanza, Ph.D., research associate with the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Integrated Substance Abuse Programs according to Medical Xpress. "I think we will see this play out even more in the public arena with a new generation of youth being persuaded to try e-cigarettes and other forms of 'healthier' nicotine products in order to advance their social standing."

The study, "Does adolescent weight status predict problematic substance abuse patterns?" was published in the American Journal of Health Behavior.

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