With gluttonous non-smokers pushing U.S. healthcare costs higher, it may be time to re-think banning smoking in restaurants
By Edwina Zaiser
Weight Watchers says,”Diets don’t work.” So what does?
Fashion models, college students and the French all know that you can subsist on coffee and cigarettes and stay a svelte size two. Remember the delightfully catty book French Women Don’t Get Fat, in which the author attributes the enviable Gallic slimness to high quality fresh foods lacking preservatives? As someone who has lived in Europe, I suspect their en forme figures are owed to alternating puffs of unfiltered Gauloises and sips of café au lait between nibbles of their fois gras-slathered baguettes.
Not only have researchers confirmed the thermogenic and appetite-control properties of nicotine, but they also have proved that nicotine’s appetite suppression effects are amplified by caffeine. Smoking increases metabolism and burns about 200 calories per day… Two hundred calories is approximately 30 minutes on the stair climber, everyday, for doing absolutely nothing except regularly ducking out of the office for smoke breaks/office gossip sessions. In addition, smoking also reduces olfactory and taste acuity, so that decadently delightful chocolate peanut butter pie with whipped cream just isn’t as tempting to tar-dulled taste buds.
Americans meanwhile have graduated from a minor and relatively inexpensive vice like smoking to a more costly Deadly Sin – gluttony.
Obesity has supplanted smoking as America’s most critical health care danger. Thanks to government sin taxes on tobacco products, smoking bans in public places and general public censure, habitual smokers have been replaced by compulsive overeaters.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that between 1978 and 1990, smoking cessation was responsible for about one-quarter (2.3 of 9.6 percentage points) of the increase in overweight men and for about one-sixth (1.3 of 8.0 percentage points) of the increase in women. The National Health and Nutrition Survey conducted between 1999-2002 asserts that obesity would rise if smoking were eradicated. Additionally, the study documents the consistent weight gain correlation between decreases in smoking and increases in obesity. And the program of Northwestern Health Sciences University lists the decline in smoking as one of the causes of Americans’ expanding waistlines.
Rand Corp. researchers discovered that in the treatment of chronic diseases, the obese spend considerably more on health care expenditures than daily smokers, heavy drinkers and the poor. The study found that obese individuals spend 36% more on health care than the general population whereas smokers spend 21% more. Sixty-seven percent of obese persons suffer from chronic health conditions as opposed to 25% of normal-weighted smokers. Since 23% of Americans are obese and 36% are overweight, it is not only the costliest health condition, but it affects the greatest proportion of the population.
In its righteous crusade to render all Americans smoke free and immortal, the anti-smoking lobby has resorted to extreme distortions of the truth. Claims that short-term transient exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risks of heart disease and cancer are groundless. The largest study of the actual amount of secondhand smoke inhaled by people who live and work in smoky environments measured that the greatest amount of passive smoke inhaled by any subject was equivalent to just six cigarettes per year. The World Health Organization’s most comprehensive study of secondhand smoke in 1998 found no statistical increase in the rates of cancer for those exposed to environmental smoke. In fact, their only statistically significant finding was that children exposed to secondhand smoke had a 22% decline in cancer rates. Since this outcome did not reflect its desired political agenda, the WHO buried the results. Soon after the British newspaper The Telegraph reported “The world’s leading health organization has withheld from publication a study which shows that not only might there be no link between passive smoking and lung cancer but that it could have even a protective effect.” In fact, the WHO published this study under the disingenuous headline: “Passive Smoking Does Cause Cancer – Do Not Let Them Fool You.”
In the 2002 election, Floridians passed constitutional amendments that outlaw smoking in workplaces and restaurants and housing pregnant pigs in small pens. These pens were used at only two Florida farms and the sows were promptly slaughtered when the law went into effect, ensuring our access to more sausage gravy-smothered biscuits. Deceived by the mendacious anti-smoking lobby’s propaganda into thinking we were safeguarding our health and limiting burgeoning smoking-related health care costs, the spend-thrift electorate overwhelmingly approved the smoking ban. That year, Florida residents demonstrated two proclivities. First, by passing the pig amendment, we sent the message that nothing is too inappropriate or inconsequential to tack onto our constitution. Second, by passing the smoking ban, the pragmatic citizens of the Sunshine State proved they were willing to sacrifice individual freedom to contain health spending. Unlike the utilitarian Florida puritans, the freedom-loving dissolute leaders of Iran ruled a 1996 smoking ban unconstitutional.
Since corpulence is a worse and more expensive health risk than smoking and the perils of secondhand smoke have been greatly exaggerated, I propose a ballot initiative for a new amendment to the Florida Constitution requiring secondhand smoke in restaurants. The appetite stanching fumes of secondhand smoke could work their diet magic on the supersized denizens of All-U-Can-Eat buffets, attacking the obesity epidemic right at the troughs, curbing our rapacious appetites for bloomin’ onions tossed in mayonnaise-ranch sauce sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. As providers of this salubrious airborne elixir, smokers would be the tip of the sword in our battle against beer guts and muffin tops. This amendment would save lives, money and shock absorbers, albeit while reducing business for the manufacturers of those people scooters in the aisles of exurban Wal-Mart supercenters. Since Florida voters’ appetites for trifling constitutional amendments is rivaled only by their appetites for chicken-fried steak, passing a utilitarian amendment that would decrease healthcare costs and dress sizes should be a piece of cake with chocolate ganache icing.
Edwina Zaiser is a writer living in the Tampa Bay area. She owned and operated a school in Japan for four years and returned to the United States earlier this year. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org