Adolescent Obesity as a Risk Factor for High-Level Nicotine Addiction in Young Women



      Obesity and cigarette smoking are two of the most frequent and preventable causes of disease and death in the United States; both are often established during youth. We hypothesized that obese, adolescent girls would be at higher risk for nicotine addiction in young adulthood, and that particular individual and social factors would mediate this association.


      Students surveyed in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative school-based and in-home survey conducted in three waves, comprised the sample. More than 4,000 respondents were used for the multivariate linear and logistic regression analyses used to determine the association between obesity and level of nicotine addiction. Potential mediation effects of the association were also examined.


      Obesity doubled the risk of the highest level of nicotine addiction after controlling for demographic factors, parent and friend smoking, and baseline smoking (OR, 2.12; 95% CI, 1.22–3.68). Family smoking was the strongest predictor of nicotine addiction (OR, 4.72; 95% CI, 2.89–7.72). Grade point average was a partial mediator of this relationship (OR, .48; 95% CI, .32–.74).


      Obese, adolescent females are at increased risk for high-level nicotine addiction in young adulthood as compared with their nonobese peers. Grade point average partially mediates the association, and may represent a confluence of factors including increased absenteeism, social marginalization, biases, and lack of confidence in academic ability. Obese, adolescent females may require targeted interventions to address their risk of subsequent high-level nicotine addiction, especially if risk factors such as parental smoking and poor school performance are present.


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