We already know that switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco keeps smokers satisfied while giving them almost all of the benefits of complete tobacco/nicotine abstinence. But does switching keep the weight off?
In 2004, I published the first and only research article answering this question (abstract here). Along with colleagues from Umeå University in Sweden, I used a World Health Organization dataset to evaluate weight gain among nearly 3,000 men in Northern Sweden.
|Weight Gain Over Nine Years Among Men in Northern Sweden|
|Tobacco Category||Average (lbs)|
|Nonusers (Referent group)||7.0|
|Smokers who quit completely||15.0*|
|Smokers who switched to snus||7.9|
|Snus users who quit completely||11.2*|
|*significantly elevated compared with nonusers|
The big gainers were smokers and snus users who became completely abstinent from nicotine and tobacco. But snus users and smokers who switched to snus didn’t gain any more weight than nonusers. This is important news for smokers who are concerned about putting on pounds when attempting to quit smoking.
I also noted that the rate of overweight at the start of the study was 32% among those who didn’t use tobacco, 29% among smokers, and 42% for ex-smokers. These percentages are somewhat lower than other reports because our group defined overweight as a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or higher. The standard definition of overweight starts at a BMI of 25. For more information about BMI, go to this website at the federal National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
Fear of gaining weight should not deter smokers from quitting. Research shows that a switch to smoke-free tobacco can leave them healthier with no added pounds.