Open Access Open Badges Research article

Dose-dependent positive association between cigarette smoking, abdominal obesity and body fat: cross-sectional data from a population-based survey

Carole Clair1*, Arnaud Chiolero2, David Faeh2, Jacques Cornuz123, Pedro Marques-Vidal24, Fred Paccaud2, Vincent Mooser5, Gérard Waeber3 and Peter Vollenweider3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

2 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP), University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

3 University Hospital Center (CHUV), University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

4 Cardiomet, University Hospital Center (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland

5 Medical Genetics, GlaxoSmithKline, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-23

Published: 11 January 2011



Although smokers tend to have a lower body-mass index than non-smokers, smoking may favour abdominal body fat accumulation. To our knowledge, no population-based studies have assessed the relationship between smoking and body fat composition. We assessed the association between cigarette smoking and waist circumference, body fat, and body-mass index.


Height, weight, and waist circumference were measured among 6,123 Caucasians (ages 35-75) from a cross-sectional population-based study in Switzerland. Abdominal obesity was defined as waist circumference ≥102 cm for men and ≥88 cm for women. Body fat (percent total body weight) was measured by electrical bioimpedance. Age- and sex-specific body fat cut-offs were used to define excess body fat. Cigarettes smoked per day were assessed by self-administered questionnaire. Age-adjusted means and odds ratios were calculated using linear and logistic regression.


Current smokers (29% of men and 24% of women) had lower mean waist circumference, body fat percentage, and body-mass index compared with non-smokers. Age-adjusted mean waist circumference and body fat increased with cigarettes smoked per day among smokers. The association between cigarettes smoked per day and body-mass index was non-significant. Compared with light smokers, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) for abdominal obesity in men was 1.28 (0.78-2.10) for moderate smokers and 1.94 (1.15-3.27) for heavy smokers (P = 0.03 for trend), and 1.07 (0.72-1.58) and 2.15 (1.26-3.64) in female moderate and heavy smokers, respectively (P < 0.01 for trend). Compared with light smokers, the OR for excess body fat in men was 1.05 (95% CI: 0.58-1.92) for moderate smokers and 1.15 (0.60-2.20) for heavy smokers (P = 0.75 for trend) and 1.34 (0.89-2.00) and 2.11 (1.25-3.57), respectively in women (P = 0.07 for trend).


Among smokers, cigarettes smoked per day were positively associated with central fat accumulation, particularly in women.