Skip Navigation

Apple and measuring tape A person preparing healthy food. Workout weights and a measuring tape.

Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet FS575

Prevent Weight Gain After You Stop Smoking or Vaping

  • Christine Zellers, MPP, Family and Community Health Sciences Educator, Cape May County
  • Karen Ensle, EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS, Family and Community Health Sciences Educator, Union County

If you are considering quitting smoking, vaping or you already have, congratulations! You are taking the first steps towards a healthier, longer life. People who quit nicotine products by using smoking cessation programs are more likely to become and remain smokefree. These programs offer counseling and nicotine replacement therapy for physical and emotional support.

When people make the choice to quit using nicotine products, they sometimes worry about gaining weight. Quitting nicotine products does not mean you will gain weight, although it could. Planning to quit is an important decision to make and so is creating a lifestyle plan after you have completed cessation. The reason people gain weight when quitting is that nicotine suppresses appetite and can impact the metabolic rate. Burning fewer calories from a slower metabolism could mean weight gain but might be offset if an exercise program were put in place.

Recent studies indicate that weight gain can vary depending on age, activity level and type of cessation treatment.1 Using nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, gums or lozenges that have small doses of nicotine may continue to suppress the appetite. As a person reduces the use of nicotine replacement therapies, they should be aware of how much, how often and what they are eating and drinking because all of these factors could impact weight gain. Be sure to add physical activity too, because being active is important to prevent weight gain. Plan to eat a healthy, nutrient-dense diet and move more to avoid gaining any extra pounds. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of preventing chronic disease and so is being smoke- or vape-free.

For many nicotine users, smoking/vaping is a coping mechanism that is used to reduce stress and boredom. However, because nicotine is an addictive substance people think using it reduces stress, but nicotine creates stress and anxiety. Addiction to nicotine demands your body repeatedly use it and now that you have quit, you are free to live a healthier life away from the burden of tobacco products. Some people also smoke to maintain an appropriate body weight—but, smoking/vaping is not safe for any reason, including weight control. Research about quitting smoking indicates that lifestyle choices made after quitting could reduce the possibility of weight gain.

Weight Gain and Smoking or Vaping

It is not fully understood why some people may gain weight after smoking cessation; however, it is related to three main behaviors. First, eating more food overall. Many people who smoke find their eating habits change when they quit cigarettes/vaping. Some people experience increased hunger as a withdrawal symptom, but research suggests their eating patterns eventually will return to normal. Second, the effect of nicotine on the body, which is the addictive substance in tobacco products and vapes, speeds up the body's food processing system known as metabolism. When people stop smoking, their metabolism slows down, and they burn fewer calories than while they were smoking. They may gain weight even if they do not eat any more than usual. Third, weight gain is associated with doing little exercise or physical activity and being inactive is the third risk factor for weight gain after successfully quitting tobacco and vape products.

Successful Weight Management for Former Smokers

For good health, it is important to stop smoking and to keep weight under control after quitting. The keys to successful weight management are commitment to following instructions and making lifestyle changes related to eating and exercise. Have confidence that you have the power to control your own behavior just as you did when you quit smoking. Here are tips to help ex-smokers prevent weight gain or lose weight and stay off tobacco.

Curb Hunger and Food Cravings

The absence of cigarettes or vapes often creates a craving for something to fill that void. Many crave sweets and find themselves indulging in more dessert and snack foods. Whether the craving is due to hunger or boredom, former smokers need to remember to:

Learn New Ways to Cope with Stress and Boredom

Quitting smoking requires coping skills and determination. It means managing stress, changing habits, and finding new things to do when bored. Just like a person learning to manage skills to quit tobacco products, you can do that to avoid gaining weight or to lose weight.

Exercise Often

Frequent exercise increases metabolic rate and should be a part of an ex-smoker's new lifestyle. Walking or engaging in other forms of aerobic exercise for 150–300 minutes per week, with an additional two days of muscle strengthening, will burn calories, keep you occupied, and make you feel better overall. Physical activity will combat the drop in metabolism caused by the lack of nicotine. Exercise can improve mental health, prevent chronic disease, and create a sense of well-being for the former smoker.

Aerobic activities include brisk walking, running, hiking, swimming, biking, and rowing. Moderate exercise should be for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time and can be done at several intervals during the day to meet recommendations. Muscle strengthening activities include body resistance exercises like push-ups, squats, or weightlifting, and are important to maintain muscle and prevent disease. Before starting any exercise program, smokers and former smokers need to get a complete medical examination. Here are some additional tips:

With creative planning of everyday activities and assuming responsibility for a new image, a person can stop smoking without gaining weight! For additional support to stop smoking or vaping, contact one of New Jersey's Quit Centers to enter a cessation program.


  1. Aubin, H., Farley, A., Lycett, D., Lahmek, P., Aveyard, P. Weight gain in smokers after quitting cigarettes: meta-analysis. BMJ 2012;345 :e4439 doi:10.1136/bmj.e4439
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why should people be active? Published July 12, 2022. Accessed September 2, 2022.
  3. Rodrigues Brandao-Rangel, M. A., Bachi, A. L. L., Oliveira-Junior, M. C., Abbasi, A., Silva-Renno, A., Aparecida de Brito, A., Ligeiro de Oliveira, A. P., Choqueta Toledo-Arruda, A., Belvisi, M. G., and Paula Vieira, R. Exercise Inhibits the Effects of Smoke-Induced COPD Involving Modulation of STAT3. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017. 6572714. doi:10.1155/2017/6572714
  4. Schwartz J., Rhodes R., Bredin S. S. D., Oh P., Warburton D. E. R. Effectiveness of approaches to increase physical activity behavior to prevent chronic disease in adults: A brief commentary. J Clin Med. 2019;8(3):295. doi:10.3390/jcm8030295
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Move Your Way. Updated September 26, 2023. Accessed September 19, 2023.
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans - 2nd edition (PDF). Published 2018. Accessed September 19, 2023.

January 2024