What’s the Deal With Smoking and Malnutrition?

It seems like it is all we hear: Smoking is bad for you!

Yes, we know that by now.. smoking causes a lot of bad health outcomes. High risk of cancer, respiratory problems, heart diseases, etc. appear as consequences to smoking tobacco. But did you know it has a significant effect on  weight and nutrition status too?

Just like alcohol, tobacco smoking promotes malnutrition in two ways:

  1. The smoker’s diet consists of less nutritional value
  2. Smoking holds the body back in taking up the vitamins and antioxidants from food.  Deficits in vitamins C and E are the consequences of just smoking only 1 cigarette a day!!

Adding up to this, smokers frequently show a deficient in vitamin A, which normally protects the body from lung infections, which might lead to cancer later on in life.

Many studies and investigators are prone on this topic, since the population of Indonesia is especially affected. It ranks third in the number of men smokers and 17th for women smokers. The country is the third-largest cigarette consumer in the world. Speaking numbers..  there are approximately 57 million smokers in Indonesia. In comparison, this amount of smokers is almost 20 times larger than in The Netherlands..

Cigarette smoking is widely associated with reduced body weight, an effect which has often been attributed to the nicotine. However, When you smoke tobacco, you can have a reduced feeling of hunger.  This causes smokers to lose weight. According to the findings, Smokers weigh 3 to 5 lbs. less than nonsmokers.

Smoking during pregnancy not only causes Indonesian women to be undernourished, they are known to give birth to babies with a significant lower birth weight. These children are also known to have a high potential of getting undernourished and being obese in the future.

Even worse, smoking among children under 18 is happening there. 41 percent of 13 to 15 year-old boys smoke, according to the World Health organization. This has immense effects on the child’s health in later life. Resulting in reduced height and malnutrition. The effect of child smoking has shown higher risks in both being underweight and overweight. In 2015, a video on youtube caused a lot of commotion. The shocking video (you can find the video below) showed an Indonesian baby boy called Aldi Rizal smoking 40-cigarettes a day when he was just 2 years old.

Smoking does not only have consequences on health.. Investigators found that 68 percent of a family’s money monthly is spent on food, whereas in a nonsmoking family, this percentage was just over 75 percent.  This implies that that 70 percent of the expenditures on tobacco products are financed by a reduction in buying food. This decrease in food-spending has immense nutritional consequences for children whose parents smoke, resulting in a decrease in height (which is often used as a variable in measuring nutrition in children. Besides spending less money on food, smoking families tend to buy food that is lower in quality. This is often because the high-nutrient products such as fruit, vegetables and meat is more expensive.

Written by Eline


Shils M, Shike M, Ross A, et.al. Modern nutrition in Health and Disease. 10th edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. New York. Part V  Prevention and management of disease.

World Health organization. Global Adult Tabacco Survey: Indonesia Resport 2011.

Rijksinstituut voor volksgezondheid en Milieu. CBS-Gezondheidsenquête, CBS-GE. 2016. zorggegevens.nl

Perkins, K. A., Sexton, J. E., DiMarco, A., & Fonte, C. (1994). Acute effects of tobacco smoking on hunger and eating in male and female smokers. Appetite, 22(2), 149-158.

Steven A. Block and Patrick Webb. Up in Smoke: Tobacco Use, Expenditure on Food, and Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries. 2009. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 58:1.


2 thoughts on “What’s the Deal With Smoking and Malnutrition?

  1. Interesting post, thanks! It is quite shocking, I didn’t know that it was such a big problem.
    I was wondering, you say Indonesia ‘is the third-largest cigarette consumer in the world’. What could be a reason for the high smoking rates in Indonesia? Did you read anything about this? And what is your opinion?


    1. thank you for your question! indeed, it is most certainly shocking that 56 million (!!!) indonesian people are smoking. I think the most logical reason for this is that the tobacco industry in indonesia is especially big. besides, the population in indonesia is just not informed about the consequences of smoking, so for them there is often no reason to stop. Smoking harms development and the environment. besides, Because of the many hrslth risks risks, not only concerning malnutrition but ofcourse the risk of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and cancers,i believe this must be number one priority of the government to reduce this unhealthy behavior!

      Liked by 1 person

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