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Saturday, July 23, 2005

I was right, I was absolutely right!

During our tour of the Alps, Mike & I had a discussion about why French women are so thin. I theorized that it's the smoking that depresses the appetite and make them so skinny. Lo and behold, today's New York Times has an article about precisely this pheonomenon:

Experts blame factors ranging from urban sprawl to junk-food-laden diets for the increase in the number of Americans who are obese - defined as having a body mass index of over 30.

But smoking, or the decline of smoking, may also play a role. Nicotine is a stimulant, which means that smokers burn calories faster. And it's an appetite suppressant, which means that smokers eat less. Consider "French Women Don't Get Fat," the best selling book. Some critics said that the real reason chic Parisian women stayed trim while gorging themselves on croissants was that they smoked more than their American counterparts.

Indeed, conventional wisdom, soundly rooted in the personal experience of millions of former smokers and in several studies, has long held that short-term weight gain is the price to be paid for quitting smoking. But economists are increasingly applying their tools to measure the way monetary incentives, or disincentives, affect all sorts of human behavior - and hence the ability of government policy to alter it. And they've been wondering whether high cigarette taxes, which are intended to encourage people to quit smoking, may have the unintended effect of redirecting them from one form of unhealthy behavior to another....

...Over all, they found that "each 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes produces a 2 percent increase in the number of obese people, other things being equal."

1 comment:

Amy said...

I don't know if it would ever have occurred to me that there would be anything good about smoking... couldn't you make the same argument about crack? Or anything else that might result in weight loss? I think the calculation of interest is not so much the cost of smoking as tradeoff in mortality rates for levels of obesity vs smoking. And even if it does result in lower rates of obesity... well, so does biking. Solving one problem with another isn't a good tactic.