Guest post by Kate Harding (and cross-posted a couple places)
So say 40.4% of people 18-24, according to The Brogan Survey. Asked to rank obesity, smoking, drugs and alcohol in order of perceived “greatest threat to public health,” most people overall (38%) put drug abuse first and obesity (30.8%) second. But among the youngsters, fat was ranked number one.
Even if you believe obesity is a major health crisis, the idea that it might be greater than smoking — let alone drugs or alcohol — is stunningly wrong, and the degree of that misperception should serve as evidence that the War on Fat is way the fuck out of control.
And I say this as a brutally addicted smoker. I love to smoke (or my brain thinks I love to smoke, anyway, which amounts to the same thing). I smoke, and I smoke a lot, even though I’m well aware of the devastating consequences — my mother died of a heart attack at 64, largely attributable to being a lifelong smoker. That’s the power of denial, right there.
But you know what? You don’t see me writing a blog called Smoky Prose, advocating for “smokers’ rights” or “tobacco acceptance.” You don’t see me arguing until I’m blue in the face that the health risks of smoking are overblown. You don’t see me complaining that cigarettes are taxed so heavily, I literally spend as much as the payment on a pretty decent car to smoke every month. I like that cigarettes are obscenely expensive, because it means a lot of teenagers can’t afford to start, and that’s a thought that makes me ecstatic. Did you know that very few people start smoking after the age of 18, and virtually no one does after the age of 24? That’s because, once you get past that window of being young and stupid enough to assume you’re invincible, and you won’t get addicted, there is no way a reasonable person can convince herself that smoking is anything but the WORLD’S DUMBEST FUCKING IDEA. (I started at 14 and was hooked on a pack a day at 17.) Unlike fat, smoking is both deadly and disgusting.
Smoking kills more than 400,000 Americans a year, and unlike the 300,000 obesity-related deaths statistic that has been debunked a zillion times, that‘s not bullshit.
The risks of second-hand smoke aren’t complete bullshit, either. Smoking puts the people you love at risk, which is a horrible thought for a smoker — but again, there’s the power of denial. There is no such thing as second-hand fat.
Being fat does not put tumors on your lungs. Putting food in your mouth does not carry a risk of later having to have parts of your mouth removed. Being fat does not endanger the people around you. Being fat does not steal your breath. (Yes, being very fat can make breathing more difficult, but rarely portable-oxygen-tank difficult. And if you see a fat person with a portable oxygen tank, that person is probably an ex-smoker.) Contrary to popular opinion, being fat does not stop your heart.
Smoking fucking kills people — and in slow, excruciating ways. But 40% of 18-24-year-olds surveyed think fat people are a greater public health risk.
Hey there, mainstream media? JOKE’S OVER. Young people believe inhaling poison causes fewer problems than being fat. THIS IS NOT OKAY. And it’s your fucking fault for regurgitating press releases from Big Pharma and weight loss companies; for repeating “obesity kills” ad nauseam without citing any source; for utterly failing to fact-check what you publish about fat; for ignoring mountains of research demonstrating that fat is both far more benign and far less controllable than most people believe; for acting as if dangerously underweight, coke-addicted young women with eating disorders are the picture of “good health”; for quoting “obesity experts” whose only training is in PR, or whose funding comes directly from corporations with a tremendous financial interest in promoting weight loss; for reporting that the American Academy of Pediatricians admits there is no evidence that “childhood obesity interventions” work, then says we can’t wait for evidence, and not batting a goddamned eye; for continuing to call any research that says obesity does not kill and may even be prophylactic against certain diseases a “paradox” instead of the plain truth scientists have known about for decades; for choosing, at every possible opportunity, to exploit the public’s baseless fears instead of correcting them.
This is what you’ve wrought: a generation that believes fat is more dangerous than smoking. Nice fucking job.