Smoking less risky than obesity?

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Generally, there is very little information in the popular media about the risks of smoking although most smokers are aware that smoking has its risks. (The brilliant scientist pictured left - my Dad, died at the age of 63 - he was a life long smoker. My clinically obese (non smoking) mother outlived him by several years)

There is a lot of information about obesity and pretty much all of it, is negative. Many medical providers also will say a lot about obesity (often telling clinically obese individuals that they will not live much longer) but virtually nothing about smoking.

So, not surprisingly, more young people are beginning to smoke cigarettes today than in 1962 (when I graduated High School).  The ones I have asked, do admit it's to "control their weight"!

In 1998, the Rand Institute financed a study which suggested that obesity is more risky than smoking.  The study used a telemarketing group to call a lot of people and survey them on health:

>>>>>"The telephone survey, asked 9,585 adults about their weight, height, smoking and drinking habits, income and quality of life. They also were asked if they had any of 17 chronic health problems, including asthma, cancer, diabetes and heart problems." <<<<<

There were 8 questions asked in all, and from this, scientists, Kenneth Wells and Roland Sturm, concluded that smoking was less risky than obesity.  The funding sources for the Rand Institute listed several pharmaceutical corporations which manufacture diet pills.

Needless to say, self-reported data is inconclusive at best.  However, the CDC seemed to agree, stating that obesity related deaths would exceed smoking deaths in the next few years.

In 2005, the CDC admitted their obesity death number had been incorrect - it wasn't 300,000 obesity related deaths a year but rather 110,000 obesity related deaths and the link between the deaths and obesity was not a strong one.  And in 2009, the CDC admitted that a software error had produced the estimate that obesity related deaths would exceed smoking related deaths in the next 5 years. 

But unlike the original dour predictions, the admission of error by the CDC was not a front page item.

Mostly smoking is neither mentioned as a serious risk, in the doctor's office nor in the media but there is something negative on Obesity on a daily basis in the mass media.

The American Medical Association's "Guide to Prevention and Wellness" (NY, 2009) mentioned smoking as a risk factor in all diseases discussed including diabetes and kidney disease.

Also mentioned by the AMA (and seldom if ever, seen in the popular media), 95% of people with chronic lung disease (COPD) are smokers.  However, smoking most damages the heart!

Unlike obesity, studies have documented millions of premature deaths directly related to smoking. Smoke from a cigarette contains 4000 chemicals, 200 of which are known toxins.

Sources on obesity studies:

Bacon, Linda, PhD: HAES (Health at Every Size) (CA, 2008)
Kolata, Gina: RE-THINKING THIN, (NY, 2007)
Campos, Paul: THE OBESITY MYTH, (NY, 2003) or THE DIET MYTH (NY,2005)
Colles, Lisa: FAT - EXPLODING THE MYTHS (London, 1998)
Fraser, Laura: LOSING IT (NY, 1998)

On the web:

Obesity a killer? The evidence is slim to say the least!