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Literary Essay On Smoking and Obesity

Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, society struggles to answer a blunt question: "Why don't we simply increase their health care costs?".....But is that ethical? The mean per capita cost of physicians' services in Ontario increased by $8.90 for each unit increase in BMI (body mass index) (Murray, 2001) and by $1.75 for every year of daily smoking (Murray, 2001). The annual attributable cost of smoking and overweight among residents of Ontario, aged 40-79, was estimated at $275,000,000 (Murray, 2001). The abundance of smoking and obese individuals in Canada is rising, therefore causing an increase in Canadians' health care costs (Man, 2011). The purpose of this research project is to examine the effects of obesity and smoking on the growing costs in dollars of Canadian Health Care and to evaluate the benefits of raising the health insurance of the individuals who practice these unhealthy habits. The expected outcome is that most Canadians will be in favour of the obligation of smokers and obese individuals to pay a health care premium for their lifestyle choices. The perspective that this research project will focus on is sociology as it will study today's society and it's institutions, such as hospitals, doctors' offices (medical institutions) and the government (governmental institution) through the lens of a structural functionalist. Secondary research through the analysis of academic articles and experiments will benefit the social change of increasing health care costs for obese and smoking individuals as it will highlight the negative impacts that these lifestyles have on health care costs, will acknowledge its relation to genetics or choice and examine the benefits of reducing the amount of smoking and obese individuals in society (Anderson et al., 2008; Dawson, 2012; Field, McCombes & Sengupta, 2010; Halibur, 2005; Lyon, 2012; Man, 2011; Mela, 2008; Murray, 2001; Rashad & Grossman, 2004; Scollo, 2008; Thalassinos, 2008; Wilson 2010). These negative impacts involve the increased health insurance costs and increased supplementary medical professional costs not covered by insurance (special surgeries and services), that are imposed on taxpayers, which is

largely due to the use of those who abuse the system (obese and smoking individuals)(Mela, 2008; Thalassinos, 2008). Lastly, the societal benefits involved in the decrease of the prevalence of obese and smoking individuals involves the increased lifespan, less diseases, less or no second hand smoke, more active and physically fit workers and overall healthier future generations (Halibur, 2005; Scollo, 2008). Various articles researched for this literary essay suggest that obese and smoking individuals either have a drastic impact (Man, 2011; Murray, 2001) or no impact at all (Anderson et al., 2008; Field, McCombes & Sengupta, 2010) on the increasing health insurance costs of taxpayers as well as the increasing healthcare costs of extra medical professional care not covered by health insurance. According to a study in The Cost of Obesity, due to increasing cases of obesity and therefore rising cases of diseases and conditions that must be treated with medical attention, the cost for health insurance and supplementary health care attention are skyrocketing (Man, 2011). Man (2011) further explained that the more healthcare resources that are required by the obese American population, the greater the increase in medical care costs for the population will be since the advanced technology and rising number of medical professionals depends upon the government to pay more money. To sum everything up, he stated that in the end, it all comes down to increasing the medical costs for every citizen, which would be prevented if only the smoking and obese individuals paid a premium healthcare cost (Man, 2011). Similar to the findings from Man (2011), within the article Obesity, cigarette smoking and the cost of physicians' services in Ontario, Murray (2001) who conducted survey research, came to a conclusion that overweight and smoking individuals are responsible for large costs to the health care system. Additionally, he further explained that an increase in the BMI of an obese individual or the act of smoking on a daily bases directly increases physician attention and therefore increases medical costs (Murray, 2001). On the contrary, a team of researchers conducted a different experiment on a sample

population and published an article about their findings, which was titled Health care charges associated with physical inactivity, overweight, and obesity (Anderson et al. 2008). Anderson et al. (2008) concluded in their article that although effective obesity and smoking prevention would reduce the costs of obesity-related diseases, the reduction would be offset by the increased costs of diseases unrelated to obesity that occur during the extra years of life gained by slimming down. Furthermore, in the article The Impact Of Alcohol Consumption, And Smoking On Short-Term Healthcare Costs In A Managed Care Population, Field, McCombes & Sengupta (2010) came to a conclusion that refutes that of Murray and Man. The team of three researchers stated that smoking will have no effect on the future health care costs of taxpayers (Field, McCombes & Sengupta, 2010). This article provided no reasoning or proof to support their claim and on top of that, a biased survey experiment was conducted since a sample of participants was explicitly chosen to represent the entire population of California. Therefore, because the population was generalized with a specifically chosen group of individuals, the results from this study are considered to be biased. Conclusively, various articles researched for this literary essay suggest that obese and smoking individuals either have (Man, 2011; Murray, 2001) or do not have (Anderson et al., 2008; Field, McCombes & Sengupta, 2010) a drastic impact on the increasing health insurance costs of taxpayers as well as the increasing healthcare costs of extra medical professional care not covered by health insurance. To a great degree, the articles written by Man (2011), and Murray (2001), provide more valid proof to support their final conclusion that increasing health insurance costs of taxpayers as well as the increasing supplementary healthcare costs are largely due to obese and smoking individuals, who abuse the system. It has been suggested by numerous academic articles that obesity and smoking lifestyles are either attributable to choice or to ones genetic makeup (Mela, 2008; Thalassinos, 2008; Rashad & Grossman, 2004; Wilson, 2009). In the article Smoking and Obesity by Gene or By Choice? , it is argued that the

two unhealthy lifestyles have no relation to genetics (Thalassinos, 2008). Through survey research of 10,000 obese individuals in Texas, United States of America, it was found that 66% of the participants admitted to their state of health being a result of a lifestyle choice and not a gene passed down through generations (Thalassinos, 2008). Thalassinos (2008) explained that smokers and obese individuals are not victims of their bodies because they have chosen to be the way they are. He continued by stating that obesity is a personal choice, since food does not hold people down & force its self on them. Thalassinos (2008) claimed that the same is true for cigarettes; one must place it in their own mouth, keep it there and breath in its chemicals. Obesity and smoking are referred to as self-inflicted problems. He stated that obese and smoking individuals are not taking responsibility for their long-term health and consequently, society has come to a point where a figure of authority (not specified in article) is required to enforce rules or guidelines to force these types of people to change their unhealthy lifestyles (Thalassinos, 2008). According to Thalassinos research in well over 90% of cases of obesity, the root of the problem involves eating too much and moving too little (Thalassinos, 2008). On a similar note, a different article titled Determinants of Food Choice: Relationships with Obesity and Weight Control concludes that a smokers or obese persons lifestyle choices have led them to be in a condition where they are putting their own life at risk (Mela, 2008). Mela (2008) argued that obesity is not linked to genetics and is just a ratio of weight and height. She further explained that smoking is an addictive behavior to the nicotine component of a cigarette that results from the choice to try it. In other words, Mela (2008) concludes that both smoking and obesity are choices that lead to addiction and unhealthy lifestyles. On the other hand, in the article titled The Economics of Obesity Rashad and Grossman (2004), suggested that obesity world - wide is largely due to the genetic component of the health condition that plays the role in determining why a given individual is obese. The researchers also stated

that the explosive growth of fast-food restaurants largely fuels the genetic obesity epidemic (Rashad & Grossman, 2004). Additionally, the article The Link Between Genetics and Obesity opposes the ideas of Man and Thalassinos (Wilson, 2009). Wilson (2009) claimed that Scientists have discovered that it may be true that certain genetic traits inherited from ones parents (having a slow metabolism, larger appetite, etc.) contribute an individual being obese. He brings attention to rare genetic condition being researched to identify whether or not it causes obesity; Prader-Willi syndrome (Wilson, 2009). Currently, there are many tests being conducted on numerous genes from the bodies of smokers and obese individuals, however there is not enough proof from the findings to make a valid conclusion about the hypothesized relationship between smoking as well as obesity and genetics (Wilson, 2009). Ultimately, both sides of the argument are provided through academic sources, however, the opposing articles have yet to provide any scientific proof to support the claim that obesity and smoking are a result of the passing down of genes through generations. To conclude, there is more research to support the claim that obesity and smoking are attributed to choice as oppose to genetics (Mela, 2008; Thalassinos, 2008). Lastly, some articles suggested that there are numerous health and social benefits and disadvantages to reducing the abundance of smoking and obese individuals (Dawson, 2012; Halibur, 2005; Lyon, 2012; Scollo, 2008). Scollo (2008) identified the occurrence of less second-hand smoke as a major benefit of a smoking-free society in the article titled Review of the quality of studies on the economic effects of smoke-free policies on the hospitality industry. As a result, the overall population as well as future generations would live healthier and longer lives (Scollo, 2008). According to Scollo (2008), a study showed new bars and restaurants located in New Jersey having more than nine times the levels of indoor air pollution than neighboring New York City, which had already enacted its smoking ban. He claims that restrictions on smoking can substantially improve air quality in the

environment and inside establishments (for workers) (Scollo, 2008). His research also showed that improved air quality translates to decreased toxin exposure among citizens, which results in less pulmonary diseases due to second hand smoke (2008). Halibur (2005) argued in Obesity-Free; Possible or Not? that an obese-free society would result in a greater amount of physically active and healthy workers. He stated that currently, 81% of morbidly obese individuals in the United States are no longer able to work due to their health conditions and therefore receive disability checks from the government (Halibur, 2005). According to Halibur (2005) a person with morbid obesity is so compromised that they risk heart attacks and strokes if they walk or even stand too long. He claimed that if this world-wide health condition were to be eradicated, future generations would have a fresh start to living a healthy and active life that is free of obesity-related diseases (Halibur, 2005). Killing the Economy With Good Health pointed out that reducing or eradicating the number of obese individuals would be disadvantageous to the economy (Lyon, 2008). Lyon (2008) explained that less obesity-related diseases results in less medical attention that will be required. He elaborated on this by saying that many people employed in the medical field will lose their jobs since there will be a decrease in demand for their service (Lyon, 2008). It was said that jobs enable people to use their disposable income to buy goods and services, which contributes to the overall stability of the economy (Lyon, 2008). Additionally, with fewer jobs, this stability would decrease since individuals will not be making as much money as they did when they were employed, resulting in them buying less and contributing less to the economy (Lyon, 2008). The article called Effects of Smokers and Obesity on the Economic Status of New York argues the similar points regarding the loss of medical-related jobs due to a decreased obese and smoking population. In contrast to Halibur and Scollo , Dawson (2010) states that there are no benefits to reducing or eradicating obesity and smoking. It is argued that a smaller population of obese and smoking individuals is detrimental to the economy since numerous medical

jobs will be lost, resulting in the newly unemployed individuals to receive less income to spend on the provided goods and services within a society (Dawson, 2010). To conclude, all four articles successfully articulate their sides of the argument, however there is a larger variety of research and reasons to support the claim that the reduction of obesity is beneficial to society as it increases lifespans, causes less diseases, reduces the amount of second hand smoke, creates more active and physically fit workers and creates an overall healthier future generations (Halibur, 2005; Scollo, 2008). In conclusion, the research from the the academic articles and journals analyzed the positive and negative impacts on health care costs, the relation of obesity and smoking to genetics or choice and the benefits of reducing the amount of smoking and obese individuals in society. Due to more statistics, facts, and unbiased experiments, one could say that based on the secondary research of this project, obese and smoking individuals increase the costs of health insurance and supplementary health care services, are the way they are because of their choices and not their genetic composition, and if reduced in numbers, will benefit society members health, future offsprings health, air quality and life expectancies. (Halibur, 2005; Man, 2011; Mela, 2008; Murray, 2001; Scollo, 2008; Thalassinos, 2008;). Research on smoking and obesity needs to be further explored. Primary research through surveys will seek to analyze the opinions of a random sample population in Burlington on whether or not a healthcare premium should be taxed for obese and smoking individuals.