Obesity epidemic not tied to drop in smoking rate
Decreasing rates of cigarette smoking are not the reason for rising rates of obesity in the US, a researcher from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Maryland, has concluded.
Writing in the American Journal of Public Health, Dr. Katherine M. Flegal notes that smoking is associated with lower body weight and smoking cessation with weight gain. Thus, it is reasonable to think that part of the reason more people are overweight is the fact that fewer people are smoking—but that’s not what Flegal found.
To gauge the potential impact of changes in smoking prevalence on the prevalence of obesity, Flegal combined data on current weight and smoking status for people who were interviewed for the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey with smoking status from past surveys.
The large drop in the prevalence of cigarette smoking, she reports, probably had only a small effect on the rising prevalence of obesity in the population. That’s because a change in smoking habits affects only a relatively small portion of the overall population.
“For example, if smoking prevalence in 1999-2002 were at the higher 1971-1975 smoking level, the estimated 1999-2002 obesity prevalence would be 22.5 percent rather than the actual value of 23.9 percent, a difference of only 1.4 percentage points,” Flegal writes.
She concludes: “Even though smoking cessation can have a considerable effect on the weight of an individual, and even though smokers tend to have a lower prevalence of obesity than nonsmokers, and even though drops in the prevalence of smoking have been large, nonetheless the likely effect of changes in smoking prevalence on obesity in the whole population is not large.”
SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health August 2007.
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