Obese patients spend more for health care and medications than smokers, as the extra weight poses them many more chronic health hazards. While tobacco is still the nation's principal cause of preventable deaths, the surgeon general warned that obesity was running a close second.
For a more precise look at the resulting costs, Rand Corp. economist Roland Sturm used data from two national health surveys to estimate inpatient and outpatient health services by different groups of people. Tobacco may have a higher death toll, largely because lung cancer can kill more quickly than some common obesity-linked diseases, but obesity was worse when it came to long-term health problems.
Being obese increases health care costs 36% and medication costs 77%, while smoking increases those costs 21% and 30%, respectively. Obesity contributed to a fall in quality of life at nearly four time the rate of smoking or alcohol abuse.