Smoking cigarettes can decrease the appetite, increase the metabolism, and serve as a distraction from hunger and eating. When a person quits smoking, they may gain weight as their appetite returns.

People may see smoking as a way to manage their body weight and therefore be reluctant to stop smoking. However, smoking causes serious, lasting health problems such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, whereas any weight gain from smoking cessation may be temporary.

This article discusses why some people may gain weight after quitting smoking, as well as the effects of tobacco and nicotine on body weight.

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The nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products causes loss of appetite and increases the metabolism. As a result, smoking can contribute to weight loss. Stopping smoking may reverse this appetite suppression, leading to weight gain.

When a person quits smoking, their brain is no longer getting the effects of nicotine, such as a sense of well-being, relaxation, and dopamine release. The absence of nicotine means the brain increases the rewarding value of other dopamine-inducing substances, such as food.

Many people may feel apprehensive about quitting smoking because of the potential for changes in weight, particularly weight gain.

Read more about the effects of nicotine.

Research suggests that despite the wide public knowledge of the negative health effects of smoking, post-cessation weight gain is the number one reason people may return to smoking after quitting. Nicotine suppresses appetite, which means quitting can cause a person to eat more than they did while smoking.

In comparison to people who do not smoke, those who smoke tend to have:

  • a lower body mass index (BMI)
  • a less nutritious diet
  • less likelihood of obesity

In one study on smoking and body weight in China, researchers found that smoking cigarettes increased the chances of being underweight by 2.7%. Additionally, participants who smoked were 12.7% more likely to have a healthy weight and 13% less likely to have overweight or obesity. This figure included a 10% reduction in the likelihood of obesity.

More specifically, a 2019 study in BMC Public Health found a consistent association between smoking and smaller hip circumference. Researchers have previously linked a lower percentage of buttock and thigh fat with higher cardiovascular risk. The results of this study supported this hypothesis. The authors suggested that smoking increases a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the fat storage capacity in their lower body.

People who stop smoking usually put on weight, but it may not be as simple as some people think. Quitting smoking can affect body weight differently in different people. Some people might lose weight, while others might gain weight. However, this loss or gain tends to balance out in the long term.

A 2018 study in the British Medical Journal found a link between having a lower BMI and increased appetite 3 months after quitting smoking and gaining more weight. It also found a link between using nicotine replacement therapy and gaining less weight 1 year after quitting.

Overall, the authors concluded that people who gain more weight soon after quitting do not necessarily continue to gain large amounts of weight after 1 year.

Read more about the effects of smoking.

A person’s body weight and the amount they smoke may help predict whether they are likely to lose or gain weight when they quit smoking.

Causes of weight gain

Researchers do not know exactly why people gain weight when they quit smoking. However, it may link to:

  • Eating more: Increased hunger can be a symptom of smoking withdrawal, but people usually return to their typical eating patterns eventually.
  • Nicotine: Nicotine speeds up the metabolism, or the processing of food as energy. When a person stops smoking, their metabolism gets slower, so they burn fewer calories.
  • Physical activity: Inactivity can increase a person’s chance of gaining weight.

Managing weight when quitting smoking involves eating a nutritious diet to reduce cravings and staying active to boost mood and improve overall health.


In addition to helping with weight management, regular exercise has many health benefits, including:

  • reducing the risk of certain health conditions, such as heart failure and diabetes
  • contributing to a longer life span
  • improving quality of life

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say that some activity is better than none. However, to gain substantial health benefits, adults should aim for 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.

Alternatively, people can do an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week.

Healthy eating

Restricting what a person eats while quitting smoking may seem like an obvious way to avoid weight gain, but restricting food intake can heighten cravings and increase the chance that they will smoke again.

Healthy eating tips to help a person abstain from smoking may include:

  • planning healthy meals that contain more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains ahead of time
  • reducing or eliminating processed foods such as candy and baked goods
  • limiting snacks to nutritious ones such as fruit and vegetables
  • talking with a doctor or dietitian to create an individual eating plan
  • avoiding crash dieting, which makes quitting harder and may cause the body to reduce metabolism and burn muscle for fuel if a person is not eating enough
  • finding ways that do not involve food to cope with cravings
  • keeping the mouth busy with something such as sugar-free gum or a nicotine inhalator

Visit our nutrition hub to learn more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 16 million Americans have an illness due to smoking.

As the following table explains, the health benefits of quitting smoking begin immediately:

Length of time after quittingHealth benefits
several minutes decrease in heart rate
24 hoursdecrease in the level of nicotine in the blood
several daysdecrease in the level of carbon monoxide in the blood
1 yeardecrease in symptoms such as breathlessness and coughing
2 yearsdecrease in the risk of heart attack
5–10 yearsdecrease in the risk of certain cancers, such as bladder and kidney cancers

Other health benefits of quitting smoking include a longer life expectancy and a lower risk of premature death.

Read more about what happens when someone quits smoking.

When a person quits smoking, they are likely to gain weight. This is mostly because smoking can decrease appetite and increase metabolism. A person’s appetite usually returns once they stop smoking.

Some may see this as a deterrent to quitting, but there are healthy ways to manage weight while quitting smoking. For example, people can plan nutritious meals and reduce or eliminate consumption of processed foods.