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Smoking and illegal drugs are down, Obesity is up. (USA) Is there a correlation?

According to the Nat. Inst. of Drug Abuse, over the last 10 years smoking has declined nearly 50% and most illicit drug use has declined - except marijuana use which has increased. Over that same period, America's Health Ranking says that obesity has increased over 30% and has become recognized as a national problem. Are these phenomenon related? If so, what does that say about us? If not, please explain why not.

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    Jun 15 2013: Well something else also happened during the timescale referred in the explanation of your premise that is, a steady increase of sedentary life style and change in dietary habit towards having more and more fast food and processed food.
    These two factors are thought to have contributed more to the emerging challenges of obesity in different demographics of different countries .
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 15 2013: Very interesting. I have done a small amount of research since posting this question regarding this point of 'sedentary' lifestyle relating to obesity and have found consistent professional viewpoints similar to your response - especially regarding the increase for children. I wonder if, since our occupations have changed to primarily office and service work, or minding machines that perform tasks, whether our biological needs of replenishment (hunger) have adjusted to this relatively new lifestyle from our millenial history of physical labor to provide our sustenance? In other words, have we 'evolved' enough in our biology to 'adapt' to this newer level of need?
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        Jun 16 2013: Thanks for sharing your findings. Yes obesity in children is also in rise , which actually a strong point against your subject here as these kids were never exposed smoking or drugs.
        It's not only occupation that made us sedentary , it's something more than that , as a kid whatever I used play , it was in the field. Now my kids play on computers or various handheld devices. Besides playing , I used to roam around my neighborhood during whenever I used get opportunity, now for security reason my kids are not allowed to do that , so either they are sitting in front of TV or playing games in computer. So sedentary life style is prevalent among kids as well .

        Not sure whether 30 / 50 years is enough time to bring some mutation in gene due to the adaptation to the new life style to make obesity a genetic trait. My feeling its rather an acquired trait. However confirmation of such things need proven scientific evidence.

        By the way , from your research did you find anything about the contribution of our changed dietary habit to obesity ?

        Last not least what I heard , as Tobacco companies are not allowed to advertise their products in any media , what they are doing is targeting people with the message that smoking helps to reduce body weight or obesity ...... Specially young girls and ladies are their target for this message. This is partially true , as some other posts already mentioned here that smoking reduces appetite .
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    Jun 17 2013: May be there's a common place: the lack of satisfaction or the need of wellnes as a human condition. In my opinion, when we eat frenetically or smoke or consume drugs, something is not working into us, we urgently need help. Not many peiople eats too much or smokes too much, etc., as a logical consecuence of being vivious, but as the external face of a inner problem. We all should offer our best and balanced help if we know somebody needs it.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 20 2013: Thanks Sean. I'm beginning to wonder whether this point of view may be the real cause. We're replacing our inner turmoil with 'oral satisfaction' of one sort or another to deaden the pain. It, at least on the surface, is sure beginning to appear that way to me. Thanks again.
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    Jun 17 2013: craigslist is a .org website where people place used or new goods up for sale. It's one of the bright spots on the web if you ask me, but buyer beware of course. Most countries have a version of it buy now. There is an interesting experiment going on in a few US States, they are allowing marijuana for recreational use. So far the world hasn't ended, and there is about to be a multi billion dollar industry born. Hemp, and marijuana are about to make a lot of people rich, legally.
  • Jun 16 2013: There is probably some, but I do not believe there is a strong correlation.

    I think obesity is up because we are not as active as we were 10 years ago, or 20, or 30. I would look to correlations between number of hours spent in a chair at home and at work, in front of a computer, TV, video game, or other activity sapping device. As a side note, a lot of soft drinks and snacks are consumed in front of these devices. Generations greoing up in the 60's and 70's typically had restricted access to TV and fast food. I think the might also be a correlation between obesity and the amount of Fast Food being served in our country. I also think it is easier to get food, what is expected in the way of physical work(chores) from children has decreased, and parents are using medications to alter a child's behavior far more than necessary.

    I think the message about smoking and drugs has been delivered to the current generation.

    As a side note, we are living longer now, so we have more time to get obese.

    There also seems to be a underemphasis on physical fitness in schools, not more focused on SOL scores and academic subjects.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 20 2013: Thanks Robert. There seems to be developing a common thread in this conversation - that we are less active and that the food has less quality and more availability and this is the primary cause of the increase in obesity, not so much that we are smoking less and taking drugs less. I lived through an age when drugs and smoking were part of the culture. I find it interesting that - according to the stats i have - the only drug that has increased is marijuana, which I understand has a side effect of hunger. Since our 'war on drugs and smoking' we have developed an obesity issue. Everyone used to smoke, yet we feel there is little correlation. I don't know, I'm not arguing, I'm just wondering now whether there is an element of 'oral fixation' we are not considering...
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    Jun 16 2013: hollywood has stopped product-placing cigarettes in movies.

    it is legal to commit suicide by junk food and junk food pushers are allowed to push their legal drugs on children and adults alike. They also have dealers on every corner backed up by constant advertising.

    it is hard to get decent, affordable, recreational drugs because they are illegal and there are no ads for where to get them.

    plus, statistics are always very suspect.
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      Jun 16 2013: Check the Colorado craigslist if you want cheap recreational drugs. It's become the marketplace of choice for the Marijuana industry. Hey, it's legal here! Maybe you prefer other harder drugs like shrooms, good news, they grow all over Colorado and they are free, though illegal. Use responsibly, and eat food responsibly. It's your body and there is no one to blame but yourself if you end up being a drug addicted, obese drain on society.
      This comment isnt directed solely at you Scott. More of a general comment.
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        Jun 16 2013: wish i lived in Canada. i don't know what craigslist is though. you are correct about personal choice. i just get frustrated that so many people get on an anti-smoking crusade then pile their kids into their carcinogen-spewing cars to drive to mcdonalds to eat themselves sick.

        at least shrooms and buds expand minds not waistbands. i realise they are not for everyone but i just don't get why they are illegal. it's weird - if it's found in nature, hands off. but if it's synthesised in a lab - feel free to peddle..
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    Jun 16 2013: I once worked in analysis ... I do not trust the figures. Here is what I know. The following I take directly from a medical height and weight chart found on the web. I have no idea what the average height is but lets select 5"8" for both men and women.

    Women: 5'8" Small frame: 126 -139 Med: 136 - 150 Large: 146 - 167
    Men: 5'8" " 140 -148 " 145 -157 " 152 - 172

    The men I know probally start in the 160 range even for the small ... we will let the women discuss this among themselves. In childrens clothing the age chart for sizing is waaaaay off. All of our families children are off of the measurement chart. We buy 18 month clothes at about 6 months. Designers make clothes to be modeled by 6'2" models that weigh 120 lbs and look skinny sick. Someone has sold the public that to look good you must be skinny and show bone. I am not a doctor but I question if that is healthy. We have a natural life cycle ... my opinion ... that says when your young you are kinda skinny .... at 23 - 25 you fill out .... at 35 - 40 you begin a middle age spread ... at 65 - 70 you add about 10 pounds and pretty much stay there. Ladies have other factors such as pregency, and changes to factor in ... again we will leave that to the ladies but men we should be aware that not all things are controllable ... continue to love them for the beautiful bride they will always be.

    JFK had a national drive to get kids in shape ... every president since has challanged us. This is not new. I question the charts from the early 1900's as reflecting a reasonable standard. We are doing better on quiting smoking .... but the drugs have not slowed down coming into the USA. The demand is still high and growing according to the drug reports I read. The prison population is growing due to drug related crimes. Is this the same govt that says we have 7% unemployment ... don't drink the koolade.

    Bob.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 20 2013: Great point. Stats are very suspect. How do we know what's really going on? Who's providing the stats? What was the group evaluated made up from? What were the biases? This question I presented may be moot for all I know. But - let me press the issue. If these seemingly unrelated stats that I presented were a true picture of a social phenomenon, could there be a correlation between them?
  • Jun 15 2013: I do not think there is a coherence, but i think the increase is connected with the usage of high fructose syrups in beverages, before there was sugar used. I think that and artificial sweeteners is the main reason, because the eating habits and ammounts did not really change over the years.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 16 2013: Ok. Thanks Lars. So you do not think there is a correlation between a decrease in smoking and drug use to obesity, but believe 'the main reason' there is an increase in obesity is because of increased use of high fructose syrups and artificial sweeteners in beverages, because eating habits 'did not really change over the years'. That is an interesting perspective. I won't ask you to offer any data to support that, but if you care to present some, that would be great. Otherwise, thanks for participating.
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    Jun 15 2013: You need to burn the extra calories you eat to remain fit.

    Excessive Eating is kind of orificial pleasure. Smoking and drugs are also pleasure seeking ways...one replaced by the other?
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 15 2013: That's the correlation I see, but so far not many others would agree. They see other causes more heavily impacting the obesity phenomenon. But I never said the reduction in smoking and drug abuse was 'the main reason - or the most reason' for obesity, I just asked if there were a correlation between them. Cheers!
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    Jun 15 2013: it's possible. I have heard smoking reduces one's appetite. One could look for scientific studies where people have been tested when smoking or not smoking and what effect it had on one's weight.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 15 2013: A couple of people have reference studies of this correlation, but they seem inconclusive at this point. I think that would be interesting to know, although I feel researchers would be hard pressed to 'discover' that smoking helped prevent obesity. Maybe the cigarette companies would fund such a study. They probably already have. :) Thanks for your response.
  • Jun 15 2013: There may be some relationship between QUITTING SMOKING AND GAINING SOME WEIGHT, but I don't see this as the major contribution to the national prevalence of obesity and reduction of smoking. The first reason is that the obesity rate increase is much larger related to the smoking quitters in numbers. Secondly, a correlation in statistical sense doesn't prove causality. Sometimes, two phenomena just happened simultaneously. For instance, the child birth usually occurred more frequently in the spring time and it's also time that there are more storks flying in the sky at least in England and other European countries . Thus people believe that the storks bring the newborn children. This is usually called a spurious effect by statisticians.
    No let me discuss the statistical data I knew of. There are apparently no alarming evidence of people gaining much weight after quitting smoke. But just in sheer numbers,when researching obese people we found that majority of them are nonsmokers. Especially during the past 50 years, the smoker population decreased substantially, but the obesity seems to increase steadily.
    Now, I am not saying that quitting smoke does not cause some weight increase, but I can hardly believe that it is the cause of obesity in general. There is some link of the two; like when a smoker tries to quit, he will seek some substitutes to soothe his nerves, such as eating, particularly candies or soft drinks; mostly fattening stuff. I also want to make sure what is the definition of obese used in the surveys. As I understand, a person is classified as overweight if s/he is 10-25 lbs over the upper limit of the normal weight. But an obese person would be more "over-weight" than that. I would also suggest that one could just sample randomly a bunch of obese people, to see just what proportion of them ever smoked and quit before they became obese. If there are very few of them satisfy this definition, then causation factor can hardly be justified.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 15 2013: Excellent. So you may see some correlation between quitting smoking (no mention of drug abuse) and the rise in obesity, although you question the size of the impact. Thanks for your response.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 15 2013: Very interesting. I understand your point about children and sedentary lifestyles. That has been a consistent response here so far. But I question your reference to 'cell phones and ipads... solar and wind power and electric cars.' The one thing that brought this this question to mind was that the three items (smoking, drugs, obesity) were all things ingested, ie taken through the mouth or 'eaten'. This is what made them relevant for me. Thanks for responding.
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          R H 30+

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          Jun 16 2013: Ok. Great. So you see no correlation between a reduction in the activity of smoking and taking illicit drugs (except marijuana which has increased) with an increase in eating - referring to children who do not smoke or take drugs. You also state that race or age groups may be more indicative of obesity. So you feel it's not so much the reduction of 'bad habits' that contribute to a 'replacement' bad habit of obesity but that obesity is possibly racially motivated and age discriminate. I think those would be very interesting statistics and, if true, would bring up a another whole discussion as to why. Thanks for responding.
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    Jun 14 2013: Research on the relationship between smoking and obesity yields inconsistent results: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167629605000603

    I believe two other factors (if not more) may play a role in increasing average weights or obesity. One is stress and the other is economic. Stress and inactivity in many people lead to over-eating, and unemployment and lower incomes likely cause shifts to less expensive foods and less focus on good nutrition. The economic challenges of the last five years in particular may well have taken a toll in this respect.

    At least in the United States, obesity and family income are negatively correlated, I believe.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 15 2013: Very interesting point. This point of the 'increase of fast-food intake' over this time period, and the resulting correlation to obesity says something about the food industry. Politically/economically speaking, the free market dictates that we are free to choose to purchase those products or not. The food industry goes to great pains to make their products very 'tasty', and have appealing texture and consistency, and to meet very competitive price points. In heavily urbanized areas, the population is rather restricted in food options because there is little land to grow their own, and the rents are so high that only high-margin enterprises can survive. The care required to provide nutritious food therefore is difficult and expensive to provide in these areas. Combine this with a struggling economy, and we have a 'recipe' for disastrous metabolic maintenance. What do you think of the urban hydroponic gardening efforts being proposed?
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        Jun 15 2013: Urban gardening is a positive idea, though it probably draws more interest and attention from those who are not poor and with small mouths to feed than from those who have less access to nutritious food.

        Do you see urban farming in Chicago?

        If one did a demographic survey of DIY involvements to start making your own of things people have become accustomed to buying in stores, I would guess the poorest people are more likely to buy the cheaper mass-produced product while more affluent people are more likely to get into DIY.

        Stress leads often to choosing the easiest thing so there is one less thing to worry about.
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          R H 30+

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          Jun 16 2013: Well, at the risk of seeming insensitive, economic stress can also lead to self-pity and an us-vs-them attitude, which leads to a sort of 'righteous self destruction' whereas we harm ourselves to show how harmed we are. (I'm gonna get a lot of response for that one). There are many 'less affluent' families that refuse to allow themselves or their children to eat junk food, preferring to make every meal at home from scratch - often ethnically oriented. So in that I would say we choose our approach to food, and what we allow into our lives, whether of means or not. Regarding urban farming, I saw an article cover story (I believe it was Fortune magazine) about some entrepreneurs trying to buy large tracts of land in Detroit to convert it into a mega-hydroponic garden - worthy of providing wholesale to grocers and even an international tourist attraction. It seems to have been another victim of politics though. Nothing I'm aware of in Chicago other than the 'neighborhood garden co-ops'.
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        Jun 16 2013: I am sure we have talks about the hormonal effects of stress and the effect of those hormones on rational decision making. In the book Poor Economics, by TED speaker Esther Duflo and her research partner, Banarjee, both of MIT, they share the research that supports this hormonal effect and its observed effect on decision making.

        As I remember your interest in the problems associated with poverty, you may find their book interesting, as it uses randomized control trials effectively to study questions of this kind. Their approach is to work toward reliable evidence on such questions.
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    Jun 14 2013: I doubt it, seems more likely a change in demographics, that and smokers and obese tend to die younger.

    This Population Explosion Among Older Americans

    The United States saw a rapid growth in its elderly population during the 20th century. The number of Americans aged 65 and older climbed to 40.3 million in 2010, up from 35 million in 2000, and compared with 3.1 million in 1900. Between 2000 and 2010, the population 65 and older grew 15.1 percent, while the total U.S. population grew 9.7 percent. The trend is guaranteed to continue in the coming century as the baby-boom generation grows older. Between 2010 and 2050, the population aged 65 and older is projected to grow to 88.5 million. People in this age group would comprise 20% of the total population at that time (up from 13% in 2010).

    The elderly population explosion is a result of impressive increases in life expectancy. When the nation was founded, the average American could expect to live to the age of 35. Life expectancy at birth had increased to 47.3 by 1900 and in 2010 stood at 78.3.

    From this:

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0780132.html
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        Jun 14 2013: Yea you are right. I don't know but is seems that demographics are the correlation?
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        Jun 14 2013: Yes I'm sure you are right
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 15 2013: Yea Pat, I would have to agree more with ZX. I don't see any evidence that age demographics is a correlation to obesity - other than the rise for children. Although, how do you mean that the demographics affect obesity, or that an increase in life expectancy would impact obesity rather than a decrease in smoking or drug abuse? I'm not clear on that point. Thanks for participating.
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        Jun 15 2013: I do not know, apparently I'm not alone in that?

        I was thinking as people get older they become more obese.
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          R H 30+

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          Jun 16 2013: ok. no sweat. thnx.
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      R H 30+

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      Jun 14 2013: Very interesting. The smoking and drugs replaced by eating, which is evidence of an underlying problem. Now, there are those who recognize obesity as a disease, and I would believe there are those with a propensity to it, but that would not explain the relative rapid increase in the disease. So it would make sense that something else were causing it for most people. Thnx.