2010-2011 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
College is a high-stress environment for many students, leading to risky habits and behaviors. Indeed, tobacco usage is greatest in young adults between the ages of 18-24 years. Many college students believe smoking helps them to feel more at ease in social settings. Those individuals who smoke are also more likely to engage in other unhealthy lifestyle habits, including making poor dietary choices. The relationship between college students consuming tobacco and body weight was examined in 150 undergraduate students at the University of Kentucky. The average age of the participants was 21± 1.24 years. The students completed surveys inquiring the frequency of tobacco usage, level of healthy eating, and amount of physical activity. The average body mass index (BMI) of the surveyed was 24.28 ± 1.03 kg/m². Thirty-five percent of the participants met the criteria for being overweight (BMI 24.9-29.9 kg/ m²). Additionally, eleven percent of the surveyed students meet the weight criteria for obesity (BMI > 30 kg/m²). Tobacco usage was greatest in overweight and obese individuals. Thirty-three percent of overweight individuals consumed tobacco while twelve percent of normal weight participants smoke tobacco. It was found that the individuals that consumed tobacco were less likely to engage in regular physical activity as compared to non-smokers. Also, the smokers did not refer to themselves as "very healthy eaters"; the majority insisted that their eating habits were "some what healthy". Due to tobacco use having a positive correlation to body weight and other unhealthy behaviors, students need to be informed of the "unspoken" side effects of consuming tobacco.