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Poll: Obesity as Unhealthy as Smoking

Most Americans Consider Obesity and Smoking to Be Just as Harmful
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 26, 2007 -- Most Americans now consider obesity as risky to their health as smoking.

A new Gallup Poll shows 83% of U.S. adults view obesity as very harmful to one’s health, compared with 79% who said the same about smoking.

Researchers say the results reveal a new view of obesity’s health risks and show that medical knowledge about the negative health effects of being overweight has entered the American mind-set.

In fact, they say the message has come through so clearly that at this point Americans are just as likely to say that being obese is very harmful as they are to say the same thing about smoking, which has long been the target of public health campaigns.

Changing Views on Obesity

The poll also showed that the vast majority of Americans are sympathetic to those who are obese. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they were sympathetic toward people who are obese compared with 21% who characterized themselves as unsympathetic.

Researchers found very little differences between the responses of those who considered themselves overweight or normal weight. However, men were slightly more likely to say they were unsympathetic toward obese people than women were.

In contrast, the survey showed people were more likely to say they were unsympathetic to people who smoked than people who were obese (21% vs. 37%).

Some of that sympathy might be coming from personal experience with the unhealthy effects of obesity. The poll showed that 28% of Americans say that obesity has been a cause of serious health problems in their family.

The poll was based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,001 U.S. adults, conducted July 12-15, 2007. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

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