Weight and stopping smoking

Blog Post created by Dr.Hays on Jan 4, 2017

Happy New Year!

As many of you know, stopping smoking can be quite challenging.  Adding to that, fear of gaining weight can make a person pause when considering a quit attempt, or even relapse after a time of being tobacco free.  Since weight gain and healthy lifestyle planning are a general concern at this time of year, I thought it would be useful to discuss some of the facts and myths about smoking and weight gain and next week have a discussion about managing weight.

Studies have found that concerns about gaining weight discourage about half of women and 25% of men from stopping smoking and just about the same percentage of people report that weight gain is a cause of relapse to tobacco. 1, 2Studies do find that people who smoke and who are in clinical trials to stop smoking gain on average between 6 and 12 pounds one year after stopping smoking and studies of  people in real life find an average gain of 9 pounds over five years after stopping smoking. 3, 4

There are probably a few reasons that people gain weight after stopping smoking.  Most of it is because of more calories in and fewer calories out. Nicotine can serve as an appetite suppressant so people may eat more once they stop.   Food can also serve as a distraction from craving. The calorie equivalent of one additional slice of bread per day for one year can increase weight by ten pounds, just the average amount gained after stopping smoking. And, it takes calories to smoke.  People get up, go outside, pound the pack, walk back into work or into their home, and all these little activities burn calories.

It does seem that the medications used to treat tobacco dependence can delay weight gain, and one medication, bupropion lessens weight gain after stopping smoking.  Being physically active, cognitive behavioral strategies, and eating snacks that are less calorically dense, all help reduce weight gain for people stopping smoking. 

Next week we’ll talk more about managing weight in general.

I wish you all the best!


1.         Cooper TV, Dundon M, Hoffman BM, Stoever CJ. General and smoking cessation related weight concerns in veterans. Addict Behav. Apr 2006;31(4):722-725.

2.         Pisinger C, Jorgensen T. Weight concerns and smoking in a general population: the Inter99 study. Prev Med. Apr 2007;44(4):283-289.

3.         Aubin HJ, Farley A, Lycett D, Lahmek P, Aveyard P. Weight gain in smokers after quitting cigarettes: meta-analysis. BMJ. Jul 10 2012;345:e4439.

4.         Tian J, Venn A, Otahal P, Gall S. The association between quitting smoking and weight gain: a systemic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Obes Rev. Oct 2015;16(10):883-901.