French Women Smoke To Remain Thin At All Costs


More evidence that Frenchwomen’s vaunted thinness isn’t entirely due to portion control and joie de vivre: les femmes françaises are apparently reluctant to quit smoking for fear of gaining weight.

According to the Daily Beast‘s Eric Pape, French men are cutting back on smoking, but women’s cigarette consumption — and lung cancer rates — have risen. Christelle Touré, who works for France’s anti-smoking committee, says, “The top concern of many women who contemplate giving up smoking: don’t fatten up.” Singer Dorothée Rascle concurs, saying, “If I stopped smoking, the first thing I’d think about would be weight gain. If you work on stage, you have to look cool — and not be enormous.” The average weight gain from quitting smoking is far from enormous — somewhere between 4.5 and 9 pounds. A third don’t actually add any weight. And, though this shouldn’t be smokers’ main concern, long-term smoking can also make women put on belly fat, which Touré calls “a bit manly.”

Smoking for weight control flies in the face of the idea that being thin is all about health, but perhaps this particular myth has always held less sway in France. Proving that it’s alive and well here is Kiri Blakeley’s catchily-titled Forbes article, “Sorry I’m Skinny.” Blakeley rightly criticizes the media’s longstanding policy of “haranguing celebrities (invariably female) who appear to be underweight” (examples include Tori Spelling, Bethenny Frankel, and Angelina Jolie). She points out that “being thin doesn’t mean being anorexic any more than being of a large body type always means being unhealthy,” but rather than simply arguing that celebrities’ weight and health should be their own business, she takes the well-trodden “obesity is the real health problem” path:

[T]he reality is that there are far more women in this country in danger of dying from obesity-related causes than in danger of not finding a pair of size 0 jeans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 72% of adult women in the U.S. are either obese or overweight. Of girls and adolescents ages 2 to 19, 16% are obese. Surely those numbers represent a lot of the people you know. Recently Urban Outfitters […] was criticized for selling a T-shirt that read “Eat Less.” [link added] Perhaps it should have read “Eat Much Less.”

Apparently we can’t simply quit judging people’s bodies — every call to lay off naturally thin women seems to go hand in hand with obesity panic. And (at least in France) even anti-smoking campaigns have to come with a dash of fat-phobia — aren’t the health hazards of smoking enough without the added fear of “manly” fat? Women on both sides of the Atlantic are still expected to lead healthy lives, avoiding bad habits and eating disorders alike — as long as they can do so while staying slim. It’s enough to make you want a cigarette.

Image via FuzzNails/

Better Dead Than Fat [Daily Beast]
Sorry I’m Skinny [Forbes]

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