Legacy Says Smoking, Obesity Need Equal Attention

The American Legacy Foundation says that two major public-health epidemics — smoking and obesity — are highest among the least-educated and poorest Americans.

“Smoking and obesity are both very important public-health concerns for our country,” said American Legacy Foundation President and CEO Cheryl Healton. “Obesity is a growing concern, but tobacco remains the deadliest and costliest health threat to our country. It is important that we identify resources to help individuals overcome difficulties with each of these epidemics.”

The foundation analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics’ 2002 National Health Interview Survey. The survey collected information from American men and women aged 18 and older.

The analysis showed that among individuals living below the poverty level, 34 percent smoked, 27 percent were obese, and 8 percent were obese and smoked. By comparison, among those earning four times more than the poverty level, only 18 percent smoked, 21 percent were obese, and 4 percent were obese and smoked.

The research also showed that individuals with high-school general equivalency diplomas (GEDs) were four times more likely to use tobacco and much more likely to be obese than people with a college degree.

Healton said the research shows that resources need to be made available to anyone who wants to quit smoking. “It is clear that there is a direct correlation between income levels and these two health epidemics,” she said. “Both of these issues are also costing Americans billions of dollars each year in Medicare and Medicaid. It is a vicious cycle; those with the fewest resources are the most affected by these problems.”