Obesity is a bigger killer than smoking, says new study
Scientists are urging the government to treat obesity as seriously as smoking
Obesity and excess body fat may be linked to more deaths than smoking, according to new research.
Since the smoking ban was introduced in the UK in 2005, numerous public health strategies have been implemented to curb the sale of cigarettes and reduce the harmful effects of smoking.
According to scientists from the University of Glasgow, obesity should now be treated in the same way.
Why? Because obesity and excess body fat appear to cause more deaths than smoking.
According to a study published in the BMC Public Health journal, deaths caused by smoking fell from 23.1% to 19.4% between 2003 and 2017 - roughly the period encompassing the smoking ban and subsequent restrictions on cigarette advertising.
However, over that same timescale, the percentage of deaths "attributable to obesity and excess body fat" increased from 17.9% to 23.1%.
Scientists leading the study estimate that deaths caused by obesity and excess body fat overtook those attributable to smoking in 2014.
Over 192,000 adults across England and Scotland with an average age of 50 featured as part of surveys.
People were asked to report whether they were regular smokers, while their height and weight measurements were taken by health professionals.
Researchers then combined this information with estimates on the risk of dying from smoking and the risk of dying from obesity and excess body fat.
Explaining the results, the University of Glasgow's Jill Pell said:
"Our research indicates that, since 2014, obesity and excess body fat may have contributed to more deaths in England and Scotland than smoking.
"The increase in estimated deaths due to obesity and excess body fat is likely to be due to their contributions to cancer and cardiovascular disease."
To tackle the growing obesity problem (and its impact on death figures), researchers are now calling for a raft of new policies alongside wide-scale public health measures.
"Our findings suggest that the public health and policy interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of smoking have been successful and that national strategies to address obesity and excess body fat, particularly focusing on middle-aged and older age groups and men, should be a public health priority."