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Past Weight Gain Hinders Smoking Cessation

Update Date: May 02, 2014 05:34 PM EDT

Many smokers refuse to kick their habit because they're scared of gaining weight. New research from Penn State College of Medicine reveals that some smokers may avoid addiction treatment if they've previously gained weight while trying to quit.

Previous studies reveal that weight gain after smoking cessation is almost inevitable, with the average ex-smoker gaining an average of eight to 14 pounds. The latest study revealed that smokers intentionally avoid treatment to quit if they are worried about gaining weight.

After surveying 186 smokers who wanted treatment to quit and 102 smokers who avoided treatment, researchers found that those who were highly concerned about gaining weight were more likely to avoid treatment to quit smoking.

Smokers were labeled as "seeking treatment" if they participated in a smoking cessation treatment research study. Other smokers were approached in the clinics and offered the cessation treatment research study. If smokers were not interested in participating in the smoking cessation study, they were labeled as "not seeking treatment," or avoiding it.

All participants were current smokers who smoked as least five cigarettes a day.

Researchers had participants answer questions about weight gain during past attempts to quit and their fear of packing pounds after quitting in the future.

While smokers in the "seeking treatment" group were equally concerned about gaining weight as those in the "not seeking treatment group," researchers found that difference was determined by if the smoker had experienced weight gain after a previous attempt to quit smoking.

The study revealed that 53 percent of participants had gained weight during a previous attempt to quit smoking, and those who were highly concerned about gaining weight were significantly more likely to avoid treatment.

"Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that smokers who gained weight previously are 'once bitten, twice shy,'" Veldheer said. "They are concerned about weight gain if they attempt to quit even though they may know the benefits of quitting."

The findings are published in The International Journal of Clinical Practice.

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