The fear of weight gain is preventing many smokers giving up, new research suggests.
Many smokers avoid treatment to help them quit if they have previously gained weight while trying to shake the habit, U.S. researchers found.
Within the first years after giving up smoking, the average person gains eight to 14lbs.
As a result, some smokers admit that they continue smoking just to avoid gaining weight.
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, in Pennsylvania, surveyed 186 smokers who sought help quitting, and 102 smokers who avoided treatment.
Smokers were defined 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 they were not interested in the study, they were defined as ‘not seeking treatment,’ or avoiding it.
Participants were current smokers who smoked at least five cigarettes per day and were recruited from Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
All participants were asked about weight gain during past attempts to quit and their concern about gaining weight after quitting in the future.
Overall, smokers who sought treatment to quit were equally concerned about gaining weight as the smokers who avoided treatment.
The difference was in whether or not the smokers had gained weight before.
Of all the participants, 53 per cent had gained weight during a previous attempt to quit smoking.
Within this subgroup, smokers who were highly concerned about gaining weight were more likely to avoid treatment to help them quit.
‘Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that smokers who gained weight previously are “once bitten, twice shy”,’ Susan Veldheer, project manager in the Department of Public Health Sciences, said.
‘They are concerned about weight gain if they attempt to quit even though they may know the benefits of quitting.’
Researchers suggest that clinicians should ask smokers if they had previously gained weight while trying to quit.
If so, these smokers should be assured that strategies to maintain weight will be addressed in treatment.