Posted in: Health

Penalties For Smokers, Obese People Debated As America Asks, ‘Who Will Pay For That?’

penalties for obesity

Penalties for smokers and the overweight and obese as a public health issue is not an entirely new subject. Punitive taxes costing smokers more than $10 a pack exist here in New York, and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg last summer announced a ban on large soft drinks to curb residents’ sugar drinking habits.

(While not a tax per se, Bloomberg’s move will cost thirsty folks a bit more at city concessions.)

Penalties for smokers have long ranged from the fiscally heavy (in the form of tax) to other sorts, like higher premiums and general societal ostracization as a nicotine habit becomes less socially acceptable.

But now that the legislation commonly known as Obamacare looms, the subject is being revisited as we all prepare for a slightly more egalitarian system, and Americans are wondering: Who exactly should pay for lifestyle choices and unhealthy habits?

While penalties for smokers never quite draw the same outcry, sanctioning the overweight is also being discussed. A paper last week written by a bioethicist, Daniel Callahan, argued for measures (which he admitted were “paternalistic”) to essentially “shame” people into eating more healthily and thus, he suggests, reducing weight-related conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the aggregate.

But the line between penalties for smokers and measures to motivate the overweight continue to have a bright, dividing line in implementation — the you versus me issue. S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s School of Public Health, tells MSN:

“When you ban smoking in public places, you’re protecting everyone’s health, including and especially the nonsmoker … When you eat yourself to death, you’re pretty much just harming yourself.”

Teen Smoking Shutterstock
Not necessarily so, says John Cawley, health economist at Cornell University. Cawley says that, while secondhand smoke hits us in the lungs, poor eating habits hit us in the wallet, hard:

“If I’m obese, the health care costs are not totally borne by me. They’re borne by other people in my health insurance plan and – when I’m older – by Medicare.”

As of now, no major penalties for smokers are on the table, save for higher premiums being allowable for those purchasing insurance. As for penalties for the obese, it remains to be seen if America can untie its love for state fair food from its love for not paying for the choices of others.

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Comments

9 Responses to “Penalties For Smokers, Obese People Debated As America Asks, ‘Who Will Pay For That?’”

  1. Heather Johnson

    People whose lifestyles make them overweight and obese hurt the very few people who are large because of a legitimate medical condition. These people who make the decision to live poorly should have to pay their own way.

  2. Vanessa Perplies

    Agree in full! YOUR premium should rise and your coverage should rise should you *choose* to practice an unhealthy lifestyle-just like someone who engages in extreme sports should pay more for his life insurance, as his risk of death is that much higher. Why should others pay for your poor choices!

  3. Anonymous

    The Great divider now has even more Americans fighting each other.

    Hey, you don't eat that.

    etc

    yet the very people who are criticizing others for what they eat and smoking VOTE FOR THOSE WHO SAY THEY HAVE TO PAY FOR THEM.

    AHAHHAHA

    GOTZ TO LOVE THAT OBMAMAMAMAAA NOW!

  4. Anonymous

    The Great divider now has even more Americans fighting each other

    Hey, you dont eat that

    etc

    yet the very people who are criticizing others for what they eat and smoking VOTE FOR THOSE WHO SAY THEY HAVE TO PAY FOR THEM

    AHAHHAHA

    GOTZ TO LOVE THAT OBMAMAMAMAAA NOW!!