How many calories does 1 cigarette burn?

Cigarette smoking is often viewed as a way to suppress appetite and burn extra calories. But how many calories does one cigarette really burn? The answer is complicated and depends on several factors.

How Cigarettes Suppress Appetite

Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a stimulant drug that activates reward circuits in the brain. Nicotine increases levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that control feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

This provides a temporary sensation of fullness and happiness, distracting smokers from food cravings. Nicotine also increases adrenaline levels, which can reduce appetite.

However, these appetite-suppressing effects only last for a short time after smoking a cigarette. The use of cigarettes for sustained weight control is not effective.

Calorie Burn From Smoking a Cigarette

Although smoking may have short-term impacts on hunger and metabolism, it does not significantly increase calorie burning:

  • One cigarette contains around 1-2 mg of nicotine. This provides a mild stimulant effect but does not have a major influence on metabolism.
  • The act of smoking a cigarette over 5-10 minutes has an extremely small calorie burn, likely around 5-10 calories.
  • The body does expend extra energy metabolizing the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke. But this accounts for only an additional 24-40 calories per day in regular smokers.

So, for most people, the act of smoking a single cigarette burns less than 10 calories. This is insignificant compared to the average adult’s base metabolic rate of around 1600-2400 calories per day.

Why Smoking Actually Causes Weight Gain

Despite the reputation of smoking as an appetite suppressant, smokers tend to gain weight over time:

  • Regular smokers often report increased appetite and food cravings between cigarettes.
  • Chronic nicotine exposure may slow resting metabolic rate.
  • Smoke from cigarettes contains many chemicals that may disrupt the balance of hunger hormones like ghrelin and leptin.
  • Lung damage from smoking makes physical activity more difficult, reducing calorie expenditure.

For these reasons, smokers who quit often experience some weight loss without changing diet or activity levels.

Study Participants Weight Change After Quitting
Veldheer et al 2015 861 middle-aged smokers 4.2 lb average weight loss after 1 year
Aubin et al 2012 236 men and women 6.2 lb average weight loss after 1 year

Other Factors Affecting Calorie Burn

The number of calories burned while smoking a cigarette can vary based on:

  • Age – Metabolism slows naturally with age, resulting in fewer calories burned from any activity.
  • Body size – Larger bodies with more muscle mass will burn more calories performing an activity like smoking.
  • Timing – Smoking after eating may burn slightly more calories as the body is actively digesting and absorbing food.
  • Physical activity – Smoking immediately before or after exercise results in higher calorie expenditure.
  • Health status – Illnesses like cancer or chronic lung disease can increase resting energy expenditure.

But even considering these factors, smoking remains an insignificant source of calorie burn. Any potential benefits are strongly outweighed by the health risks.

Health Risks of Smoking

While cigarettes may burn a tiny amount of calories, they are extremely harmful and dangerous:

  • Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are linked to cancer.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. It increases risk of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, COPD, and more.
  • Secondhand smoke also poses health risks to others.
  • Smoking causes long-term damage and inflammation in the body that can actually slow metabolism.
  • Smoking is a major risk factor for obesity-related conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Increased Risk of Premature Death

According to the CDC, smoking takes at least 10 years off a person’s expected lifespan:

  • Smoking reduces life expectancy by at least 10 years compared to never smoking.
  • People who smoke 30+ cigarettes daily lose 13-14 years off their life expectancy on average.
  • Quitting smoking before age 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%.

Higher Cancer Rates

Smoking accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths. It is conclusively linked to increased risk of:

  • Lung cancer – In the US, 80-90% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to smoking.
  • Larynx cancer – Smokers are 15-30 times more likely to get larynx cancer.
  • Oral cancer – Risk of mouth, tongue, and throat cancer is 5-25 times higher for smokers.
  • Esophageal cancer – Smokers have a 6-8 times greater risk.
  • Pancreatic cancer – 2-3 times higher risk versus nonsmokers.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cigarette smoking harms the entire cardiovascular system and is a major cause of heart disease:

  • Increases risk of coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis by 2-4 times.
  • May increase stroke risk 2-4 fold.
  • Impairs blood vessel function throughout the body.
  • Exacerbates pulmonary heart disease and hypertension.
  • Associated with aortic aneurysm.

Other Effects on the Body

Some other ways cigarette smoking impacts health:

  • COPD – More than 80% of COPD deaths are due to smoking.
  • Impaired immune function – Increased risk of respiratory infections like pneumonia.
  • Reproductive effects – Smoking can cause infertility and low birth weight babies.
  • Bone loss – Associated with osteoporosis and increased fracture risk.
  • Cataracts – 2-3 times higher risk when smoking.
  • Bladder cancer – Smokers have 2-4 times greater risk.

Smoking and Weight Control

Smoking is an extremely unhealthy way to try to lose or control weight:

  • Any weight loss from smoking is minor and temporary.
  • Smoking reduces physical fitness and endurance for exercise.
  • Increases complications and poor healing for those who get weight loss surgery.
  • Leads to insulin resistance and higher diabetes risk.

Instead of smoking, a healthy diet and active lifestyle are recommended for sustainable weight management.

Healthy Ways to Lose Weight

Some effective weight loss tips include:

  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, and lean protein.
  • Choose whole grains and high fiber foods.
  • Limit added sugars and refined carbs.
  • Reduce calorie intake modestly to create deficit.
  • Participate in aerobic and strength training exercise.
  • Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
  • Manage stress levels with relaxation techniques.
  • Monitor portion sizes and drink water.

The Bottom Line

While smoking may have short-term effects on appetite, it does not significantly increase calorie expenditure. The act of smoking a cigarette burns only around 5-10 calories.

Yet smoking causes severe long-term health consequences like lung cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Any minor calorie-burning effect is outweighed by these risks.

Quitting smoking and adopting healthy lifestyle changes are far safer and more effective for losing weight and keeping it off.

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