For decades, the fact that smoking cigarettes is extremely dangerous has been pushed upon the American public from every possible direction, encouraging quitting and actively discouraging beginning in the first place.
Countless television and radio ads are designed to scare the craving right out of you while anti-smoking advocacy groups offer their support to those looking for a way to quit. Schoolchildren are taught from a very young age that smoking is simply “bad,” that it makes your clothes smelly, that it makes you sick and that it can get you into a lot of trouble. Shocking online videos feature victims of lung and throat cancer, speaking painfully and unnaturally because they refused to heed the warnings from their family, their doctor, major health organizations, or the Surgeon General.
A Looming Threat
Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the world and is responsible for approximately 443,000 fatalities every year. Obesity, however, is threatening to give smoking a run for its money in America, rapidly catching up in the form of a rising endemic that now affects nearly two-thirds of the country’s entire adult population. Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and multiple types of cancer (including breast, prostate and colorectal) are becoming increasingly more prevalent.
Being overweight in America has essentially become the norm, so much so that people who are of a healthy weight are often mistaken for being too lean. One important question that comes up when you consider critical health issues that span an entire nation, especially those capable of killing off millions each year, is actually one of the simplest: Why?
Why isn’t something more being done about this? While billions of dollars are going into anti-smoking legislation and tobacco-free advocacy every year, what’s happening on the anti-obesity front? The answer is, comparatively speaking, not much.
The unfortunate truth is that doctors, surgeons and other health professionals largely focus on the problem after it’s already become a risky issue, rather than concentrating their cumulative efforts in preventative methods to keep their patients healthy to begin with.
The overwhelming majority of American society typically underestimates the various consequences of obesity, indulging in high-calorie, high-fat meals three to four times per day and leading a relatively sedentary lifestyle. Exercise and diet are often only considered when that dress from last spring refuses to zip up in the back or that favorite pair of slacks just won’t button anymore. By this point, an excess of body fat has already taken over and the risks associated with being overweight are already increased.
Doctors, scientists and nutritionists who do recognize the issue for what it is agree on one point unanimously: Authorities in the healthcare industry and in the government would do well to spend significantly more time and effort educating the American people regarding sustainable lifestyle choices rather than first offering prescriptions and weight loss surgery to “fix the fat” after the fact.
Inarguably an enormously critical problem in and of itself, the issue of obesity is apparently not alone in its ability to escape the scrutiny it desperately deserves. Fluoride toxicity, for example, is a very real problem for individuals with kidney problems and has been known to cause severe health complications and even death. Yet the government continues to turn a blind eye to the problem, allowing water fluoridation without attempting to conduct the research necessary to discover this chemical’s role in patient illness.
Alcoholism continues to destroy the lives of both those who drink excessively and those who are unfortunate enough to come into contact with them while they are heavily inebriated.
Millions suffering from mental health issues like clinical depression, anxiety and chronic substance abuse continue to lack the support and funding they need to improve their lives. Just like the growing obesity problem, these issues have been largely circumvented or outright ignored, placed on a perpetual back burner by those capable of offering a remedy.
Perhaps if as much thought, effort and money were put into these situations as have been put into anti-smoking campaigns, our country might not see so much suffering, disease and needless death.
Is Obesity Really More Harmful than Smoking?
Recent UK studies have postulated that obesity and its related conditions may indeed prove more dangerous than smoking, revealing that morbidly obese men (with a BMI of 45 or higher) experience a reduced life expectancy to the tune of 13 fewer years on Earth, while the number of years lost to smoking fell closer to an average of 10. Naturally, further research is needed before any definitive claims regarding other BMI indices can be made, but one thing is for sure.
Individuals with every body type under the sun – skinny, slender, average, muscular, healthy, slightly overweight, clinically overweight and obese – have all been negatively affected by tobacco addiction and everything that comes with it. No one is immune to the health risks associated with smoking.
Now that obesity is beginning to catch up with tobacco as a key player in preventable disease and death, Americans and the government responsible for the well being of this country share a mutual responsibility: to reshape our collective lifestyle, thereby avoiding an otherwise inevitable epidemic of deadly disease that’s been preventable from the very start.