Researchers at the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work have found that teens with negative body image issues are more likely to suffer from depression and low-self esteem, resulting in poor health choices. A national survey found that girls who believed themselves to be too fat or not at all attractive were more likely to use alcohol and tobacco and boys who thought themselves too thin were more likely to smoke. While many believe that smoking is an effective way to lose weight, smokers generally only weigh 6-10 lbs. less than nonsmokers. Additionally, smoking a pack a day can put as much stress on a person’s heart as if they were 90 lbs. overweight. Some studies have suggested that people who smoke may gain more weight because it dulls the tongue’s ability to properly gauge the taste of sweet foods. Smoking can negatively affect a person’s taste buds, making sweet food not taste as sweet, which fails to signal the body to stop eating.
The key to changing the thought that smoking can improve a young person’s body image may lie in early and consistent education. Working with students from a young age can help them make the connection that their self-worth is not linked to what they think their bodies look like and that abusing their bodies will not make their lives better. Education can also help break the false idea that smoking makes a person look ‘cool’ or ‘sexy’ or that smoking is the best choice to lose weight or improve their mental state. Early education on nutrition and healthful eating can help steer a person in the right direction so they can make positive choices to maintain a healthy body.