Smoking is no longer the leading health concern resulting in death and disability in the Australian state of Queensland, a top doctor proclaims. That dubious title has now shifted to obesity.
Chief health officer Jeannette Young said the number of Queenslanders categorized as overweight or obese was surging, while smoking levels were dipping.
Rates of Queenslanders aged 18 and older, who smoke daily, have plunged by more than 12 per cent to nearly 15.7 per cent of the population in the last two years.
However, the proportion of adults considered overweight or obese had soared by 1.8 per cent a year since 2002 to 55.3 per cent of the population last year, said Dr Young.
According to her, the figure could hit 65 per cent - almost two-thirds of the adult population - by 2020.
The latest statistics show that a quarter of Queenslanders aged five to 17 are overweight or obese, up from 21 per cent in 2006.
"We've done a lot of work to try and halt obesity in kids but it doesn't seem to be reversing," The Courier Mail quoted Dr Young, as saying.
She added: "If we don't look to our children, particularly in terms of obesity, then it's predicted that they could be the first generation that lives a shorter lifespan than their parents.
"Median life expectancy for obese people is reduced by two to four years and for the severely obese, it's reduced by eight to 10."
Dr Young blames junk food for the rise in obesity levels.he said: "It astounds me how much saturated fat and salt they can manage to put in junk food.
"It seems impossible, the quantities. I think it's pretty hard to get overweight if you're eating sensible stir fries and salads."
"Until 2007, the biggest risk factor leading to premature death and disability in Queensland was smoking," she said. "That's been overtaken by obesity," Dr Young pointed out.