Thoughts That Hurt to Think #033 – Eating is the New Smoking!

You know all those studies they do on smoking cigarettes, the ones that have been quoted repeatedly until yet another group got marginalized for the thing they enjoy doing? Have you ever noticed the asterisks in the legit ones, or read the information in tiny print at the bottom? I noticed when I was a kid, that there were serious qualifiers on every study I read about how bad smoking is for you.

So, what is the qualifying factor?

I mean…smoking is bad, right?

It turns out that they won’t do tests on people that smoke less than two packs a day, and most of them are actually studying smokers that pound through three packs a day or more. Why the giant qualifier? Most people that smoke keep it around a pack a day, and a lot of smokers go through even less. They don’t include these people in the study, and it’s quite likely because they don’t get the results they’re looking for when they do.

Studies show that statistics are wrong, after all.

Can you imagine what kind of numbers you would get if you specifically followed a group of drivers who only drove when they were extremely drunk, or habitually drove at least thirty miles an hour over all posted speed limits? How many accidents might this reckless group get into while being studied, and how many would die? Would it really be fair to subsequently announce that studies show driving to be particularly dangerous, and mention in tiny print at the bottom that results may vary for sober or slower drivers?

Too much of a stretch?

How about this one?

Not long after this country began to consume food substitutes in favor of actual food, obesity became an epidemic in the United States. It’s hard to tell if it’s sedentary lifestyles or unhealthy eating habits that have become the biggest killer in our country, since the two seem to so often go together. They’ve definitely left smoking in the dust, although obese people that smoke often leave behind family that blame the one instead of the other.

After studies showed that second hand smoke is actually a myth for the most part, the non-smokers felt completely comfortable responding to the news with, “well, it’s still annoying”.

If you don’t like the smell of cigarettes, I understand completely. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked up the hallway to the break room at some site I was working and been unable to approach for the smell wafting toward me. When I have some good reason I’m headed there, I hold my breath and go to wash my hands or get some coffee. I try to pretend I don’t notice that the thing in the microwave smells like death warmed over, even if that’s clearly what it is. I also try not to notice that the person waiting anxiously to consume the thing spewing out the noxious smell is invariably wearing their eating habits clearly under their clothes.

Then I go outside, where I can breathe, and notice that the smoke that I have to walk fifty feet to smell is way more appealing to my senses than whatever was about to get eaten inside. I try not to think of the fact that the only way you can smell something is if tiny particles of it actually find their way inside your nose, as I breathe out something I would never put in my body.

Do you see where this is headed?

Well, we’re not ready to get there just yet.

First we should discuss how hard it is to pass someone who overdoes it with food substitutes in a narrow hallway, or how irritating it is to have half of your seat on a plane or at a theater taken up by someone who weighs twice what you do. It’s easy to cry that the seats should be bigger, and many of them are now; but we can’t dismiss the smells that they put off, or the fact that they’re pretty much blowing it in our faces.

If seats need to be bigger to accommodate one excessive habit, shouldn’t every public place be required to provide a comfortable spot for smokers as well? Or should we just keep marginalizing more groups based on their habits?

Is it time to weigh people before allowing them into restaurants, or on airplanes? Is it time to make them eat outside, so the rest of us don’t have to see or smell the habitual overeaters? We could give them a spot fifty feet from the smokers, to be fair to each group.

One of the reasons that even smokers didn’t mind going outside is because it was seen as so dangerous, according to those studies that tested the only group they could get the results they wanted from. I wondered aloud, even as a kid, why everyone seemed to know two facts that stood in stark contradiction to each other.

“What ethnicity lives the longest, from what you’ve heard?” I would ask people, and still do.

I’m asking you, now.

So far, everyone has said, “Asians.”

“What ethnicity is most known for smoking cigarettes?”

So far, the answer has always been the same.

Does that seem weird, or is it just me?

I mean, is smoking maybe actually good for you?

That’s what an acupuncturist told me, when he was giving me the only treatment that successfully keeps me from getting migraine headaches for a couple weeks. I asked him if there was a treatment for quitting smoking, and he laughed at me.

“Why would you want to do that?” he asked, pulling a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and smiling. “Smoking is good for you.”

When he slipped them back in his pocket, he added something.

“Just don’t overdo it,” he counseled me.

Well, that sounds reasonable.

And, it’s good advice for those who enjoy being sedentary or eating food substitutes. Actually, it’s good advice for almost anyone who enjoys indulging in almost anything.

Just don’t overdo it.

That way, we can all have our little indulgences without imposing the consequences of our overindulging on anyone else. I hate to point out to people packing around a bunch of extra weight that way more smokers live into old age than obese people, and that they are a much smaller burden on healthcare all around…but I will if the subject comes up. Just because one habit has been demonized and the other hasn’t yet, overeaters may consider their attitudes towards smokers as time goes by. Sugar taxes are right on the heels of tobacco taxes, and segregation is right around the corner from fifty feet from the door.

Don’t even get me started on how many athletes smoke, or how few of them are obese. Quality of life coupled with a longer expected life span makes smokers the healthier of these two groups, with less trips to the hospital. And those are just the smokers pounding through multiple packs per day. The studies on people who smoke less don’t even exist, because they don’t support the marginalization of this group or the excessive taxation on their indulgence.

While the number of smokers in America drops, obesity is on the rise. The funny thing is, the only folks I’ve ever seen get really up in arms about smokers have been obese people. Not all obese people are rigid and lacking compassion, obviously; that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying the only people I have seen openly criticizing one oral fixation clearly had an oral fixation of their own. Maybe they sense that the taxes and marginalization is heading their way, and they want to feel superior while they still can.

Very few people in America belong to a group that has not been marginalized at some point in some way. Yet all of us have belonged to the group that gets marginalized more than any other, and few of us look back and feel that we were treated unfairly. Even fewer fight for the rights of this group, since pretty much everyone agrees they should continue to be marginalized. We’ll talk about that next week, in a post called…

‘Children are more marginalized than anyone!’

I hope to see you then!

Thanks for reading!

All the best,

J.K. Norry
The Secret Society of Deeper Meaning
Twitter: @JayNorry

One thought on “Thoughts That Hurt to Think #033 – Eating is the New Smoking!

  1. You are really opening a can of worms with this one. It’s true though; no one wants to ask or discuss the hard questions. As someone who has asthma, the smoking ban in my town didn’t make me cry for smoker’s rights. Smoke of any kind triggers attacks in me, and no one has the right to allow their bad habits to harm another. I agree with you on the problems of accommodating the obese. I cannot sit comfortably in restaurant booths because the table is 3 feet from the seat. The obvious solution is to use tables and chairs so everyone can adjust it to their desired distance, but that would be too simple. Although I don’t advocate bullying fat people, it’s not right to ignore the health risks associated with overeating just to make people feel better. As for lifespan, it’s a mixture of genetics and luck. My uncle smoked a pipe everyday, cooked with pure lard and butter, drank too much, and worked his whole life in coal mines breathing coal dust and toxic fumes. He lived to be 102.
    Thanks for asking the hard questions; it’s an interesting discussion. I really enjoy your blog.

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