Obesity Epidemic and Alcohol Abuse - Linked to stopping smoking?

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The politically correct answer is that they aren’t linked. Experts tell us, “Ex-smokers might gain weight but not that much.” “We don’t know why the rate of alcohol abuse has increased.” One independent researcher offers evidence that those most-serious lifestyle health risks are related. He says, “Something especially lethal and wasteful is happening. Applying superficial remedies for smoking and nicotine addiction enables a bigger threat to all of us. The public health crisis and financial burden of overweight and obesity now are added to those from cigarette smoking. The better news is that we can avoid piling on the next epidemic: alcohol abuse. We can with the help of adults who recognize that this evidence is probably accurate and will warn others. Before long . . . it will be too late.”

"Hints from published research, many clinical observations, a good memory, strong timeline evidence and a more science-based perspective all combined to clearly say that those health threats are linked," says Richard T. Lovelace. "Doing little more than pressure nicotine addicted people to not smoke–with lawsuits, higher taxes, smoking bans, and more–encouraged piling on another lifestyle health risk crisis. And this one raises health care costs more than smoking." According to Lovelace, "Other countries made the same tragic mistake. We humans have added a global overweight and obesity epidemic to the global smoking epidemic."

"Please understand," he requests. "You might respond to what I'm telling with something like, 'My friend is overweight and she never smoked.' I'm giving an explanation for the recent epidemic. That reason doesn’t apply to every situation."


Information supplied by government agencies and more bureaucracies establish that the current "obesity epidemic" happened within the past 30 years. The significant push to get people to avoid or quit smoking cigarettes started a short time before. Dr. Lovelace is sure the "push" is the primary reason for that "epidemic." "Nicotine smokers didn't have an effective, long-term way to avoid substituting eating for smoking. Many put down their cigarettes and picked up food and chronic excess body fat."

One in five ex-smokers has occasional cravings for several years. Lovelace believes the numbers are higher for "those who tried to stop or reduce smoking with NRT or nicotine replacement therapy. NRT keeps the drug in someone's body longer than he or she would realize." He points out that saying "nicotine replacement" can be confusing. "It's 'cigarette replacement.' The gum, patch, lozenge and spray are alternatives to puffing on cigarettes to get the nicotine. (Later, be sure to see references.) People don't expect to have prolonged cravings. Consequently, they confuse those with hunger for food. Also in those 'stressful' situations where they smoked nicotine for its apparent calming effect, people compensate by eating 'comfort foods' or drinking alcohol. Rather than smoke to 'reward' themselves, they eat and drink. In restaurants, malls, stadiums and bars where they smoked before, now they eat more and drink more alcohol."

When unable to get their drug, heroin addicts can temporarily substitute with candy. Says Lovelace, "Nicotine users do something similar. They stop smoking, have cravings and overeat, gain weight, understandably get discouraged, mistakenly blame their metabolisms and return to smoking. They keep the unhealthy fat or much of it. Later, when they cut back or try to quit again, they put on additional unwanted pounds. Unsuccessful efforts to stop or reduce smoking, or successfully staying quit, promotes becoming overweight or even heavier than before." From his experience treating thousands of adults, this specialist is certain that it's the accumulation of excess pounds that does the damage. "Even if the average amount of weight gained after stopping is less than 10 pounds, smokers stop several times before success."


"That's the hidden or sneaky part of what's occurred that led to the global obesity epidemic," this researcher believes. "People added considerable excess body fat from several attempts to quit or cut back and are still smoking...some smoke heavily. Other folks made several attempts to give it up or reduce smoking, added bodyweight each time, finally succeeded and gained only a few pounds afterward. Hardly anyone would associate all the added unhealthy pounds with efforts to not smoke or smoke less. We humans tend to forget what we think are our failures. If asked, we honestly don’t recall all the times we stopped or cut back."


This could explain what happens to adults. How does Lovelace apply his discovery to the increase in childhood obesity and overweight? "People agree that the children of smokers are more likely to smoke. It is as probable that the children of former, or wanting to quit, smokers who add bodyweight do the same. Fewer teens are smoking or admitting to it. Obviously they're eating more."


Consumption of fast and junk foods along with technology that discourages physical activity are common factors alleged to contribute to the "overweight epidemic." But were fast foods, junk foods and beverages produced and only begun to be widely used in the past three decades? Have adults and children that recently become "couch potatoes" and disinclined to be physically active? Dr. Lovelace asserts that the answer to both questions is a "big NO."

"We all grew up with such convenience foods and beverages," he says. "One difference is that the junk older Americans ate and drank during childhood had more calories than much of what's sold today. Many of us didn't begin to do aerobic exercise until 20 or 30 years ago. In our neighborhoods, people now walk or jog for exercise. When we senior Americans were children, if a grownup was running on a street, probably a dog was chasing him. If out walking, he or she was going to a neighborhood store for a soft drink and sugary treat."

There are additional varieties of fattening snacks and prepared meals and more places to purchase them. Asserts Lovelace, "Even with the considerable advertising that's done, ultimately the way it works is that demand drives availability. There are more available because people want them. It isn't that people want them because there are extra junk and fast foods and places to buy them. Advertising doesn’t create the demand nearly so much as it influences which places and fattening products people will use to satisfy themselves and their children." This healthcare clinician is convinced that much of the increased demand results from consistently substituting or occasional attempts to replace cigarettes with food and drink.


Says Lovelace, "The well-intentioned individuals and their research publications that help enable the obesity epidemic do what's politically correct. Understandably, they prefer research that supports their views and those of their benefactors. They, drug companies and other allies–that generate enormous profits or tax revenues–might claim otherwise. But exposing what experienced professionals who might help readily can recognize as valid doesn't encourage smoking. It does the opposite. For teens and children who don't want to become fat or fatter, it's another incentive to not start smoking."

"It is exceedingly important," according to Dr. Lovelace, "to know about this link between smoking cessation and reduction and adding large amounts of unhealthy bodyweight. It says that instead of raising taxes and in other ways penalize people and their employers for unhealthy behaviors our representatives need to examine some realities." He gives examples: "No matter how much they want to help, please don't let agency administrators and corporate executives apply superficial remedies to try and solve public health problems that have internal, inside people, origins. We will sufficiently overcome the widespread beliefs that create the essential cause of nicotine smoking, overweight, obesity and alcohol abuse or we and our children will continue to suffer for it."

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Notice and author: This press release contains the opinions and ideas of its author and is for educational purposes only. Richard T. Lovelace is a licensed healthcare clinician, lifestyle health risk researcher, workshop leader and author. His publishers include John Wiley & Sons and McGraw-Hill. On his website he gives free online access to health and wellness books, articles, self-help programs and self-tests.


1. "The influence of smoking cessation on the prevalence of overweight in the United States," New England Journal of Medicine,1995;333;1165-70. (As much as 1/4 of the increase in the incidence of becoming overweight in US men and 1/6 in US women from 1975 to 1990 could be attributed to smoking cessation.) See abstract and access to full text online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=
2. "Alcohol Abuse Increases, Dependence Declines Across Decades" http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/press/2004/NESARCNews.htm
3. "Stopping smoking and body weight in women living in the United Kingdom" Find an abstract online at

4. "Obesity Threatens World’s Health" http://www.rnw.nl/science/html/obesity020702.html
5. "The Smoking Epidemic - A Fire in the Global Village" http://www.who.int/archives/inf-pr-1997/en/pr97-61.html
6. "UQ Researcher Uncovers Global Smoking Epidemic" http://www.uq.edu.au/news/index.phtml?article=4889
7. "CDC's Role in Combating Obesity" http://www.hhs.gov/asl/testify/t020725a.html
8. "Obesity Costs Rival Smoking" http://my.webmd.com/content/article/64/72524.htm
9. "Cigarette Warning Labels: History and Impact" http://www.health.family.org/women_men/articles/a0000382.html
10. "Obesity Trends" http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/
11. "About Obesity" http://www.obesite.chaire.ulaval.ca/iotf.htm#Prevalence
12. "About Smoking" (Ex-smokers still have occasional cravings for cigarettes.) http://www.doh.gov.ph/tobacco/aboutsmoking.htm
13. "Why Treat Nicotine Addiction with Nicotine?", R. T. Lovelace, Counselor (magazine), 1989.

14. "Have Profits Blinded the Nicotine Replacement Industry?" http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/5/prweb127213.htm
15. "Nicotine Gum Maker's Concern Raises Concerns" http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/5/prweb125542.htm
16. ASH Article (It takes a number of attempts to learn how to stop smoking for good.) http://www.ashscotland.org.uk/quit/stop.html

Contact Information:

Richard T. Lovelace, MSW, Ph.D.

Suite 1-A

2200 Silas Creek Parkway

Winston-Salem, NC 27103

(336) 722-7300

(336) 414-1628


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