Objectives: Reduction of cigarette smoking is an important public health goal. However, lower smoking prevalence may be associated with increased obesity prevalence. I sought to estimate the effect of decreases in smoking prevalence on obesity prevalence in the United States population.
Methods: I combined current weight data by smoking status from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) with smoking prevalence data from past NHANES surveys to estimate weight status had smoking prevalence not changed.
Results: Even relatively large changes in the prevalence of smoking were estimated to have little effect on obesity prevalence. For example, if smoking prevalence in 1999-2002 were at the higher 1971-1975 smoking level, the estimated 1999-2002 obesity prevalence would be 22.5% rather than the actual value of 23.9%, a difference of only 1.4 percentage points. Estimates for other weight categories were similarly small.
Conclusions: Decreases in the prevalence of cigarette smoking probably had only a small effect, often less than 1 percentage point, on increasing the prevalence of obesity and decreasing the prevalence of healthy weight in the population.