Teen Smokers Fall Down on Other Health Habits

They're likelier to have poor diet and get too little exercise

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TUESDAY, March 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Cigarettes aren't the only health threat facing young people who smoke.

A Virginia Commonwealth University study found that youths who smoke -- particularly girl smokers in high school -- are less likely to eat vegetables and dairy products, and are also less likely to exercise than their nonsmoking peers.

The study of 8,022 middle school students and 2,613 high school students enrolled in tobacco prevention programs found that high school smokers were much less likely to eat at least one serving per day of dairy products, and to exercise three or more times per week, than were nonsmokers.

Middle and high school girls who smoked were much less likely to eat one or more vegetables a day compared to nonsmokers. Middle school students who smoked were much less likely to exercise three or more times a week than nonsmokers.

The study was presented at the recent annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

"The combination of smoking and poor diet/less exercise together may place teens at higher risk for developing chronic diseases later in life than either behavior alone," study author Diane Baer Wilson, an associate professor of internal medicine, says in a prepared statement.

She notes that 23 percent of American high school students smoke and many teenagers don't eat enough healthy, nutrient-dense food.

"This study provides strong evidence for addressing multiple risk behaviors simultaneously, such as smoking prevention and healthy eating/exercise, in adolescent interventions and introducing this model in middle school years," she says.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about youngsters and smoking.

SOURCE: Virginia Commonwealth University, news release, March 25, 2004

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