Smoking and obesity...are they now equal bad habits?

By Nick1962 Latest Reply 2013-02-04 12:20:24 -0600
Started 2013-01-29 18:47:32 -0600

Well, can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Two little gems came out this week in the effort to curb obesity and its related diseases, and let’s just say the upcoming fights are going to be fun to watch.

The first little nugget - Saturday the 26th, the AP (Associated Press) ran an article by Mike Stobbes equating obesity with smoking. You can read the article here:
but I’ll synopsize for you. The argument being, that like smoking, many cases of obesity are “conditions of choice”. That meaning you can prevent the health issues associated with it in the first place by changing your eating habits (or not starting them in the first place). The big argument – if you chose to eat yourself to death, you’re pretty much only harming yourself right? A smoker on the other hand harms others with his second hand smoke. That’s why it’s not an equal comparison (or is it).
Despite the arguments that are sure to erupt, figures show that obesity costs more in health care costs, as well as reduces life expectancy more than smoking does. Still smokers are actively stigmatized far greater than those who over eat.

The second nugget, pretty much on the same subject, comes from senior research scholar Daniel Callahan at the Hastings Center - a bioethics think-tank (a place where people think about ethics).
Since obesity is becoming a national epidemic, Mr. Callahan thought that like smoking, “shaming” those into giving up the habit of over eating or continuing poor eating habits would be an effective tool in reducing obesity. It’s been tried before and failed, but could the time be right for it to work now?

This brings up some questions in my mind.

With today’s regulations on smoking, it’s quite difficult for a non-smoker to cross the path of a smoker long enough to encounter second hand smoke considered to be “harmful”, unless of course you’re stuck in a house with a smoker. Is the second hand issue pretty much dead now? Remove the second hand issue and all you’re left with is the smoker is a burden only on society for future medical problems, just like the obese. Is it now a level field?

No doubt obesity is going to creep into the health care society and soon will be another premium increase with many insurance companies. For those who can maintain (or return to) a healthy weight, should they be penalized like a smoker on their health and life insurance premiums?

Should we now be putting health warnings on foods like we do on cigarettes?

I remember the anti-smoking smoking posters of the 70’s and 80’s hung up in doctor’s offices and clinics. One showed a wrinkled, toothless old woman, cigarette in hand, with the caption “Smoking is Glamorous”. Would it be ethical (or even effective) to put up posters with a picture such as this with a caption “That pizza sure looks good on you Dave”?
Quite honestly, I thought that was a picture of me from 7 years ago, but I don’t wear Crocs.

3 replies

JoleneAL 2013-02-04 10:58:03 -0600 Report

What is going to happen, and has already been discussed, is health insurance costs will be debited for those with "unsatisfactory lifestyle choices", ie: smoking & obesity. However, even though we may all agree on those two items, that blanket statement can be left open for interpretation. First off "who" is going to decide what lifestyle choice is unsatisfactory? The Government? They who run the DMV & Post Office? Notice, they are going after the smokers and obese, but the drunks are never mentioned. Why is that? (Edited for spelling)

Nick1962 2013-02-04 12:20:24 -0600 Report

I (we) currently have an insurance plan that rewards “healthy choices” and tracks fitness through various downloadable electronic devices. In some cases we get premium reductions or points for merchandise. It is a good incentive program, and as much as I am against Obamacare, I would be much more in favor of it if it had a similar aspect.
I suspect insurance companies will be the ones making determinations as to what constitutes “healthy lifestyle” choices by what their biggest outlay is. I can easily see this going forward because there are those of us that get a little frustrated having to shell out those monthly premiums to insure those who don’t make the effort. It is a slippery slope, but I’m sure drinkers will be included in no time, and your health insurance will go up at the second DUI. Boy, college kids are going to be expensive to insure.