Models are under intense pressure to stay slim and always look their best, and the culture of drug use and smoking can quickly take its toll on the women in the industry.
Models have to cope with the pressures of a “size zero culture,” where the drive to become extremely thin has led to widespread eating disorders, drug abuse and high rates of other problems such as smoking. The problem is that for a model, dependent on her looks for her paycheck, smoking is a terrible idea because of the serious effects it has on the skin. Many female and male models may smoke because it’s believed to be an effective approach to weight loss, but in reality the picture is more complicated than that. Smoking among professional models may be common, but it isn’t a good idea.
Substance Use, Smoking and Mental Health Issues Among Professional Models
Although smoking among models is widely-claimed to be very common, there aren’t many hard statistics that can be used to estimate how common it actually is. However, one survey of a small number of models conducted by the Model Alliance suggests that the problem of smoking among models is likely to be serious.
The survey of 85 models showed that over three-quarters had been exposed to drugs and/or alcohol while on the job, and over half had been exposed to cocaine. Almost a quarter reported ever or currently having a drug and/or alcohol problem. While the survey didn’t ask about smoking specifically, the shocking rates of drug use and addiction indicate that anecdotal evidence of high rates of smoking in the modeling industry are likely to be true.
In addition, the survey showed that almost 7 in 10 models suffer from anxiety or depression, and just under a third have had an eating disorder. Despite the limitations of the survey due to its small size, this again supports suggestions of psychological issues and (in particular) eating disorders among models.
The small survey paints a very clear picture: women in the modeling industry are encouraged to maintain unhealthily low weights, have psychological issues and are regularly exposed to both alcohol and illegal drugs. Smoking is almost certainly a prominent part of this picture too.
How Does Smoking Affect the Skin?
Smoking is bad for your skin. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to develop wrinkles prematurely. There are many reasons for this, including the drying effect of smoke on the skin and the reduction in the amount of oxygen and nutrient-carrying blood reaching the skin as the blood vessels contract.
Smoking is also associated with an increase in an enzyme which breaks down collagen, which is the component of the skin that helps it retain its elasticity. This means smoking causes your skin to sag, and when coupled with regular squinting as smoke rises up towards your eyes and the pursed, sucking facial expression as you draw on a cigarette, this leads to a characteristic pattern of wrinkles.
This is the root of the links between smoking and aging and smoking and skin problems: it affects your skin in numerous ways. On top of the wide-ranging damage smoking does to your body, this is a compelling reason models should avoid smoking.
Smoking and Weight Loss: Is This Why Models Smoke?
Since smoking is bad for your skin, you may be surprised that there is a close link between smoking and professional models. One of the reasons for this may be the effect of smoking on your weight. In general, smokers weigh less than non-smokers, and they have lower BMIs. People who quit smoking often gain some weight, too.
This is because nicotine reduces your appetite and increases your metabolism. So a model who smokes probably won’t feel as hungry, will eat less food and will probably feel about as full as she would have done eating a larger meal as a non-smoker.
This seems great for models who smoke, but the link between smoking and weight isn’t as simple as you might hope. Firstly, smokers who smoke a lot tend to weigh more than non-smokers. These smokers are less likely to exercise and more likely to have a bad diet or other bad habits.
A bigger concern for models is the effect of smoking on how the weight is distributed around the body. In smokers, your weight is more likely to be stored around your waist than around your hips, which means the waist-to-hip ratio is higher in smokers. A lower waist-to-hip ratio gives an hourglass-type figure, whereas a higher ratio means there is less of a difference between the thinnest part of your waist and the widest point of the hips.
Stopping Smoking for Models
There are many approaches to quitting smoking that can help models. It may be difficult to stop smoking because of the prevalent culture of smoking among models, but using alternative nicotine products like e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or nicotine replacement therapy would be preferable to continuing to smoke. Quitting nicotine use entirely would be best for your health, but if you can’t quit, these approaches are definitely worth trying. However, for models, using counseling or other psychological support would likely be beneficial, because it could also help with anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
Whatever you do, remember that smoking is bad for you, bad for your body and bad for your skin, so models should quit as soon as possible if they want to keep their youthful looks. Reach out and get help; you won’t regret it.