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Into the Frying Pan


Out of the Fire into the Frying Pan

by Kenneth Lyen

I read an economic research report today from The Public Interest, and it made me laugh.

It said that smokers who quit smoking are overeating and becoming more obese. Thus they have transferred their risk factor for coronary heart (and other) disease(s), from the smoking group to the obese group.

"Obesity and sedentary lifestyles accounted for approximately 400,000 deaths in 2000 compared to 435,000 from cigarette smoking, 100,000 from alcohol abuse, and 20,000 from illegal drug use. Obesity costs more in annual medical care expenditures than cigarette smoking — around $75 billion in 2003 — because of the long and costly treatments for its complications."

This means that economically speaking, it is better to smoke than to overeat. By dying faster from problems associated with cigarette smoking compared to problems associated with obesity, you save on your medical bills. Death is more affordable than life. So what's the choice: to smoke or to overeat? Either way you end up dying prematurely.

This reminds me of a cartoon depicting words carved on a tombstone. 1980 Gave up smoking. 1990 Gave up fatty foods. 2000 Gave up sex. 2004 Still died.

The only good news is for the weight reduction industry. New drugs, new weight reducing regimens, new beauty parlours specialising in obese individuals, are sprouting up everywhere, and this industry is growing fat from the spoils. Pathologically obese individual are to be pitied. They occupy two seats wherever they sit, and they have few friends. They become depressed, and this makes them eat even more. Treatment can be extraordinarily invasive. I saw an Extreme Makeover programme on television, where a severely obese lady underwent liposuction and plastic surgery. Incredibly it worked! And it did seem to elevate her self-esteem. But I’m sure this didn’t come cheap.

I wondered to myself. All this obesity could have been prevented if only we had stuck to a stringent diet, coupled with vigorous exercises from young. Well, here in Singapore, we are pretty serious about preventing obesity. School children are taught to eat healthy foods and to exercise regularly. And should they become obese, this regimen becomes compulsory. Furthermore, there is an evangelical antismoking crusade in our schools. Hopefully an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of extreme makeovers.

Uh oh, I better stop eating these crisps while writing this!