The female weight-control smoker: a profile

J Subst Abuse. 1993;5(4):391-400. doi: 10.1016/0899-3289(93)90007-x.


Hypothesizing the existence of a subgroup of female smokers for whom nicotine masks, and abstinence unmasks, a tendency toward hyperphagia and perhaps even subthreshold disordered eating, we compared female "weight-control smokers" (WC; n = 46) and "non-weight-control smokers" (NWC; n = 52) on smoking- and eating-related variables. We also examined the relationship between weight-control smoking and withdrawal symptomatology during 48-hours of nicotine abstinence (n = 23). Although WC were not more depressed, anxious, or nicotine-dependent than NWC, they were significantly more likely to report weight gain and increased hunger during abstinence; they also scored higher on Cognitive Restraint and Disinhibition (Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire). The expected correlation of cotinine with weight emerged for NWC but not for WC. Weight-control smoking correlated with increased eating during abstinence. Our findings suggest that WC use dietary restraint as well as smoking to manage weight, and that abstinence may precipitate episodes of disinhibited or binge eating. If WC overinclude women vulnerable to excess or unpredictable eating and consequently to substantial weight gain that can be managed by nicotine, highly focused treatment strategies may be helpful.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Personality Inventory
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • Nicotine