Obesity Costlier Than Smoking

Nurses General Nursing


Since .gov has gotten so deep into the healthcare system and Medicare and Medicaid are eating up an ever greater portion of the USA's finances, these types of studies portend future penalties levied on unhealthy persons, ioho, and then denial of treatment / meds and eventually candydated onto Hospice:

[ Fair Use: For Educational / Research / Discussion Purposes Only ]


Tuesday, March 12, 2002, AP


Obesity costlier than smoking icon21.gif

Study: Effect same as aging 20 years

Associated Press

Washington --- Obese Americans spend more for health care and medications than smokers, largely because the extra weight causes the same jump in chronic health problems as does 20 years of aging, says a new study.

Although tobacco is still the nation's chief cause of preventable deaths, the surgeon general warned in December that obesity was running a close second.

For a more precise look at the resulting costs, Rand Corp. economist Roland Sturm used data from two national health surveys to estimate inpatient and outpatient health services by different groups of people.

Tobacco may have a higher death toll, largely because lung cancer can kill more quickly than some common obesity-linked diseases, but obesity was worse when it came to long-term health problems, he reports today in the journal Health Affairs.

Being obese increases health care costs 36 percent and medication costs 77 percent, while smoking increases those costs 21 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Obesity contributed to a decline in quality of life at nearly four times the rate of smoking or alcohol abuse, Sturm reported. Only a two-decade jump to middle age --- going from age 30 to 50 --- brought similar health effects and costs, he said.


Lung malfunction deaths are worse than heart / kidney malfunction deaths ...

Not to mention the second-hand smoke pollution and violent asthma attacks triggered upon innocent bystanders ...

But obesity can be more long-term ...

Can a special tax on junk food be far behind?

From what you have seen in your practice, do you agree with this study?


46 Posts

As a thin smoker, it's a comfort to know I won't be burdening healthcare economic situation ...:roll :roll


238 Posts

Oh God, as an overweight non-smoker this makes me even more conflicted between investing in my career (added stress of work + school= more fat) so I'll be less exploitable in my 40's-60's, or investing in my health (forget career goals until I get the weight down) so I don't have NIDDM, CAD, etc in my 40's-60's. Yikes!


62 Posts

You have to eat but you don't have to smoke.


6,620 Posts

But you don't have to eat cheetos and coke...;)


110 Posts

I have somewhat always thought obesity was more or equally as costly on society as smoking. This study brings this cost more to light. Again, we are faced with the question of behaviors.

Although smoking does bring about a different death than obesity the results and effect is the same on society as it relates to money and healthcare expenses. I suspect the biggest and most identifiable difference is the second hand smoke issue associated with smoking and no identifiable issue with second hand obesity.

So as some of us have to put down our cigarettes and cigars, others will have to put down our snickers and ding dongs !!

Will we have a law suit against "junk food" distributors like we did cigarette distributors? Will we see a band on "junk food" TV commercials? Is sugar as addictive as tobacco? Will our lawyers rush to all the diet centers to start that class action lawsuit?


jschut, BSN, RN

2,743 Posts


I'm on Weight Watchers:rolleyes:


I DON"T smoke.:imbar

Where do I fit in?;)



70 Posts

I work in Occupational Health for a large company. Part of my job is to collect data to help assess health risk factors for a given work population. The idea is that since we are self-insured, we can help contain some of the healthcare expenses generated by our less healthy employees. Using data from employer paid physical exams, we summarize these risks, both individually and as an aggregate for each operating facility. Evaluating the percentage of the population who is overweight, hypertensive, hypercholesterolemic, etc.

Using this data we "target" what educational activities we want to provide to help employees make educated lifestyle decisions. And, that is exactly what this is about -- LIFESTYLE CHANGE. For most Americans, their health status is directly related to how they choose to live their lives. You can choose to smoke or not to smoke. You can choose to eat a sensible diet, or you can choose to eat what is convenient. You can choose to get up off the couch and excercise your body, or choose to sit and let your brain die along with your body...

One of the biggest problems in our society today is that most Americans refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. I am surprised that there haven't been class action lawsuits against McDonalds and Burger King, for selling such harmful products. It doesn't matter that people willingly stand in line to buy the junk, it only matters that they can blame someone else for their poor judgement, and failure to take responsibility for their own actions.

Should there be higher taxes on cigarettes and junk food? Well, somebody's gotta pay for the healthcare side effects, so why shouldn't it be the ones who use the products... I mean, if you have a poor driving record, don't you pay higher insurance rates. Why not pay more for making poor LIFESTYLE CHOICES??? Oh, I forgot... they're not to blame... How can we hold it against a 350 pound, non-compliant diabetic with a two pack a day habit, if their heart explodes as they exit the McDonalds drive thru for the fourth time this week?

Sorry if I sugar coated it... maybe next time I'll tell you how I really feel...



951 Posts

Specializes in Hospice, Critical Care.

LOL, George! Smoking...obesity...one is no better or worse than the other...each is most likely gonna lead to some early demise. Of course, it's much easier to position those thin coffee-and-cigarette COPD'ers around their ventilator tubing than those 350-lb can't-breathe-because-i'm-too-fat tubed patients.


34 Posts

I'm obese, and I've just started seriously taking responsibility for it! I agree about health care costs and those that make the bad choices should somehow pay more. At the hospital where I work it is already a little in place. Every year we have to have out wt., B/P, cholesterol, smoking habits,body fat ratio checked. We pay a certain amt. toward our health insurance. For each factor within a "normal" range, you get $5.00 credit every month on your insurance, so you can make quite a savings yearly on being healthy!

Anyways, I work on a ventilator unit. One pt. is a really nice lady, but she's over 300 lbs., diabetic, and everything else you can think of. Her kidneys are nearly shot. The nephrologist talked to her about a kidney healthy diet she needs to follow. The pt. said, "I'd rather eat whatever I want, and you give me dialysis!" And this is basically what she is doing. So here she is already costing taxpayers lots of money being on a ventilator 24/7 and now she's chose for taxpayers to pay for her dialysis so she can eat whatever she wants. Of course, I know she's depressed, etc. but I still think there should be some sort of repercussions for your choices, instead of depleting our health care resources like that! I bet she'd change her mind and work on being healthier if she had to pay for some of her costs!


107 Posts

I have worked in health care for 30 years. I have done Oncology, General surgery, Specialty Surgery, Cardiology and now Emergency Room. We all agree, if it wasn't for diabetes and smoking, we wouldn't all have jobs.

And if fat people die at a younger age, how is that taxing the health care system? What, they don't contribute as much in taxes?


237 Posts

Your side smoke may kill me, but your "side" junk food won't! And Fergus51--it's usually cheetos with diet coke.:eek:

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