Of Fires and Frying Pans

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Tech Central Station is having some fun with anti-smoker obsessives—like lawyer John Banzhaf—who have lately become anti-cheeseburger litigants leading a jihad against fat. Columnist Duane D. Freese notes that:

One irony of the war on tobacco is that evidence suggests that the anti-smoking campaign may even be connected to weight gain. The rise in obesity in the United States coincides with a plummeting in tobacco use, as per capita cigarette consumption has plunged 60 percent since 1985. And what is true here has also happened abroad.

The explanation is pretty straightforward. It's physiological. Smoking increases metabolism levels, which means people burn more calories when they smoke. When people give up smoking, though, they often don't increase their exercise level to raise metabolism or cut back on the amount they are eating. Thus, they store the extra calories as fat, and over time some have likely become obese.

Shouldn't Banzhaf and his fellow tobacco crusaders have foreseen that outcome? Shouldn't they have warned people to reduce their calorie intake when they gave up smoking? If you want to play the blame game, shouldn't they be held liable for leading people to exchange one unhealthy lifestyle for an even, according to the nonprofit RAND institution on health, unhealthier one? Maybe it's time to lower taxes on cigarettes and have the lawyers give back some of their Big Tobacco earnings?

Actually, the estimable Freese believes that "people who gain weight are responsible for their own eating habits, even after giving up smoking." But then, he's neither an obsessive nor a courtroom jihadi.

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  1. Careful, or you’ll have them bringing joint suits against both the fast food and tobacco industries. “Your honor, smoking didn’t stop me from eating, eating didn’t stop me from smoking, and I’m experiencing emotional distress from not knowing whether my heart or my lungs will be the first to go.”

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