Weight fears cost smokers almost a year of life – and £19,000!

Smokers are delaying their quit attempts by an average of 7.5 years – during which time they smoke an extra 41,000 cigarettes, costing them £19,270 and 314 days of life – simply because they worry that giving up will lead to weight gain, a new survey has shown.

More than 95% of smokers said they had heard the suggestion that quitting smoking causes weight gain and more than half (51%) said that worrying about piling on the pounds had caused them to avoid giving up, the survey of 2,000 former and current smokers revealed. The poll was conducted by Slimming World as part of their partnership with Stoptober.

The survey found that people smoked an average of 15 cigarettes each day for the 7.5 years they delayed quitting smoking because of weight gain worries – a total of 41,000 extra cigarettes.

A study published in the British Medical Journal estimated that each cigarette costs an average of 11 minutes of life. This means that the extra 41,000 cigarettes puffed by smokers because they were worried about gaining weight could cause them to die an estimated 451,000 minutes or 314 days sooner*.

There is also a financial cost to smokers’ weight gain worries, the poll revealed. Latest estimates are that a packet of 20 cigarettes costs £9.40**, meaning that the extra 41,000 cigarettes (or 2,050 packets) cost smokers a staggering £19,270.

Smokers revealed the top challenges they fear would cause weight gain if they quit are:

  1. Missing holding a cigarette and reaching for food instead (38%)

  2. Eating more due to hunger (35%)

  3. Boredom leading to eating more (34%)

  4. Responding to low feelings by taking comfort in food (31%)

  5. Eating more due to tastebuds being enhanced (22%).

Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition and Research
There are many simple steps you can take when giving up smoking to prevent you from gaining weight and Slimming World can even help you stop and slim.
Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition and Research

“It’s horrifying to learn that so many people are carrying on smoking for many years simply because they assume that they will gain weight if they give up,” says Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition and Research at Slimming World.

“It’s true that, without support, giving up smoking and managing your weight at the same time can be challenging. Your appetite and sense of taste comes back, and you can be so used to having something in your hand that you are tempted to reach for food instead of a cigarette. However, there are many simple steps you can take when giving up smoking to prevent you from gaining weight and Slimming World can even help you stop and slim.

“Our poll found that the thought of gaining weight through eating more is a major worry for smokers who might otherwise quit. However, choosing foods that satisfy the appetite for fewer calories – like fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, potatoes, fish and lean meat – can help people to avoid the hunger that often comes with quitting smoking. Prepping low calorie snacks can help keep their hands busy too.

“Quitting smoking improves lung function, so people can soon find it easier to get active. Starting small, finding something they enjoy and building up gradually can all increase a person’s chances of turning activity into a habit. Regular physical activity doesn’t only help burn more calories and help maintain a healthy weight, it also improves sleep, manages stress, improves quality of life and may moderate nicotine cravings to help quitting.

“Making healthy lifestyle changes isn’t easy to do alone though, and getting support from people who understand your challenges and are also on a journey to better health and wellbeing can dramatically increase your chances of success.


As part of Slimming World’s commitment to the Stoptober partnership, it is offering discount for online membership during October and a free unique 7 day eating plan packed with delicious menus and recipes to help quitters eat well and stay on track. To find out more visit the microsite: www.slimmingworld.co.uk/stoptober


Chris Coulter, 53, and Lesley Hutchinson, 57, from Newcastle

Both Chris and Lesley had wanted to give up smoking for many years before they finally stopped – Lesley had thought about quitting for over a decade – but they worried that kicking the habit could result in them gaining weight.

They finally stopped smoking 22 years ago when they bought their first home together. Quitting was hard at times and they coped with breaking the habit of wanting a cigarette in their hands and wanting to smoke in certain situations such as in the pub or after dinner by reaching for high calorie foods like crisps, nuts and chocolate instead.

Over the years, Chris and Lesley’s weight kept going up – with Chris topping the scales at more than 29st and Lesley weighing more than 15st at her heaviest.

Chris’ health worsened and he developed sleep apnoea, which regularly saw him stop breathing in his sleep. He also broke a chair at a family BBQ and the resulting cut on his leg became infected with cellulitis and ulcerated because of his weight.

They joined Slimming World together in 2011 and, with the support of their group, began developing new healthy eating habits, cooking healthy homemade versions of their favourite meals such as curries, cheeseburger and chips, pasta bakes, roast dinners and full English breakfasts.

Now, after losing a combined 24st (Chris has lost 18st 5lbs and Lesley is 5st 9½lbs lighter), they are healthier, happier and slimmer than ever. Both wish they knew what they know now about healthy eating when they gave up smoking – and feel that if they did, they wouldn’t have gained weight in the first place.

Lesley says: “When we gave up smoking we ended up swapping one bad habit for another as we just started reaching for high calorie foods instead of cigarettes. If we’d have known what we know now about healthy eating then we’d have gone about things really differently. We eat just as much as we used to – probably more in fact – the difference is that we’re cooking healthy meals from scratch and snacking on fruit rather than chocolate and crisps.”

Chris added: “Looking back now, a lot of the skills we’ve learned on our weight loss journey could also have helped us with our quit attempts. We think about things more and we plan ahead for difficult situations. I know that if we’d have found out about Slimming World sooner then we wouldn’t have gained weight when we gave up smoking. However, the main thing is that we have tackled our weight now and we’re still smokefree! Lesley and I stopped smoking together and we’ve lost weight together. We’re healthier and happier than we’ve ever been and I couldn’t be prouder of Lesley, or of myself, too.”

* The poll of 2,000 current and former smokers, conducted by Cenuswide, found that the average person smoked 15 cigarettes per day during the 7.5 year period they delayed their quit attempts because they worried about gaining weight.To work out the total number of cigarettes smoked: 15 cigarettes per day x 365 days = 5,475 in a year, multiplied by 7.5 makes 41,063 cigarettes in 7.5 years.To work out the total estimated life lost by smoking these extra cigarettes: 41,063 cigarettes x 11 minutes = 451,693 minutes, divided by 60 = 7,528 hours, divided by 24 = 313.6 days.

** The average cost of 20 cigarettes is £9.40. http://www.the-tma.org.uk/tma-publications-research/facts-figures/uk-cigarette-prices/ 2,050 packets multiplied by £9.40 per packet = £19,270.

Notes to Editors

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 18,000 groups held weekly across the UK and Republic of Ireland via a network of 4,000 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques.

Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and a recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating behaviour change in a warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000.

For the Press Office please email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk