I reported in my December 14, 2009 blog on a recent study predicting that the effects of increasing obesity in the US are forecast to outweigh any benefits from continued reductions in smoking rates over the next decade.

Now WebMD reports on this [1], saying that from 1993 to 2008, the proportion of smokers among U.S. adults declined by 18.5% while the proportion of obese adults increased 85%. Researchers say smoking had a bigger impact on deaths while obesity had a bigger effect on illness.

"Because of the marked increase in the proportion of obese people, obesity has become an equal, if not greater contributor to the burden of disease than smoking," wrote researcher Haomiao Jia, PhD, of Columbia University, and colleagues. "Such data are essential in setting targets for reducing modifiable health risks and eliminating health disparities."

The health care debate needs to focus on how to reduce obesity and smoking, not just on how to pay the medical costs associated with it.

Mark Fergusson