Possible lessons from the tobacco experience for obesity control

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Apr;77(4 Suppl):1073S-1082S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/77.4.1073S.


Although obesity is increasing to epidemic proportions in many developed countries, some of these same countries are reporting substantial reductions in tobacco use. Unlike tobacco, food and physical activity are essential to life. Yet similar psychological, social, and environmental factors as well as advertising pressures influence the usage patterns of all 3. These similarities suggest that there may be commonalities between factors involved in controlling obesity and tobacco. This review, therefore, seeks to draw lessons from the tobacco experience for the organization of more successful obesity control. Smoking cessation counseling by physicians has been found to be one of the most clinically effective and cost-effective of all disease prevention interventions. When used alone, however, it cannot decrease the cultural acceptability of tobacco and the pressures and cues to smoke. Research and evaluation have shown the key elements of tobacco control to be (1) clinical intervention and management, (2) educational strategies, (3) regulatory efforts, (4) economic approaches, and (5) the combination of all of these into comprehensive programs that address multiple facets of the environment simultaneously. For each element, we present the evidence outlining its importance for tobacco control, discuss its application to date in obesity control, and suggest areas for further research. Viewing all of the elements involved and recognizing their synergistic effects draws researchers and practitioners back from an exclusive concentration on their particular setting to consider how they might seek to influence other settings in which individuals and populations must negotiate desired changes in nutrition and physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Counseling
  • Exercise
  • Food / economics
  • Health Education
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Smoking / economics
  • Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Tobacco*