A University of Florida research study has found that girls who begin to diet are twice as likely to begin smoking.

Mildred Maldonado-Molina, lead author of the study said: "Dieting was a significant predictor of initiation of regular smoking among females."

The researchers derived their findings from the answers of 7,795 adolescents who were surveyed during the first two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, completed in 1994 and 1996. The teens were in seventh, eighth and ninth grade when surveyed.

Researchers included the answers of adolescents who said they were trying to lose weight and divided the group into four units: non-dieters, new dieters, former dieters and consistent dieters, who said they were dieting both times they were surveyed. They excluded teens who were already smokers and those who admitted to taking diet pills, vomiting and using other unhealthy weight loss tactics.

"That group of teens who were beginning to diet was the one we were most interested in, seeing how the start of one behaviour related to initiation of smoking," Maldonado-Molina said.

"Smoking to suppress the appetite may be one reason why some dieting teens start," Maldonado-Molina said.

Despite the link, Maldonado-Molina said parents shouldn't go on red alert if their child starts a diet. Some dieting practices, such as eating balanced meals, can be a part of a healthy lifestyle, she said.

"This doesn't mean if your child starts dieting they are going to start smoking. I think parents should be vigilant and talk about it. It's looking for those changes in behaviour." she said.

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