The effects of changes in smoking prevalence on obesity prevalence in the United States

Am J Public Health. 2007 Aug;97(8):1510-4. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.084343. Epub 2007 Jun 28.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Probability
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • United States / epidemiology