This winter, as most winters, I put on my little winter cushion. I fluctuate 3-5 lbs between the cold and warm seasons. Usually not a big whoop. This year however, my natural flux seems to be having a slightly harder time hitting the summer zone. Now 3 or 4 lbs isn’t a health crisis…but it does make my spring/summer wardrobe a bit snugger than I prefer. So rather than go out and buy looser clothes to accommodate my winter butt…I will be working a bit harder to get back to summer size. By doing so I will definitely feel better…but also will be saving a ton of $ and resources by NOT BUYING a pile of new clothes in the next size up.
Why do I bring my widening rear up other than its pure entertainment value? Well…it got me thinking of the whole connection between one’s physical health and the issue of greenness. The truth is I am saving more than money and resources on new clothes, I am preventing a step in a direction towards potential future health issues. Now I am NOT implying that keeping a healthy weight is a sole indicator of one’s physical health. But it is one crucial part of it…along with not smoking, moderation in the naughty stuff, regular exercise, balanced diet, etc. While reading No Impact Man’s great guest post focusing on personal responsibility in our actions…I got seriously thinking about where personal health issues within our control come into the picture of greenness and social responsibility. There is no denying that medical issues require a great deal of energy, resources, time, plastic, and cost the health care system a fortune, making it harder on tax payers and those on the economic gray zone between middle class and poverty.
Smoking: Let’s tackle smoking first…since there are few if any health justifications for its use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention smokers cost the country $96 billion a year in direct health care costs, and an additional $97 billion a year in lost productivity. Considering the state of our economy and our health care system, this is no small public matter. In addition, second hand smoke leads to air pollution and potential health issues for anyone exposed, often children of smokers. Fortunately, this is a fight we seem to be slowly winning. How?
Research & Public Information: According to the American Lung Association smoking has dropped from 43% to 23% in the past 40 years primarily due to increased knowledge about the dangers involved.
Policy: Congress just passed another set of laws restricting even further how cigarettes can be marketed and stricter rules for getting those products on the shelf. Cities like San Fransisco & NYC have banned smoking in bars and restaurants….much to the delight of nonsmokers. Does it work? Oh yeah…NYC is down 350,000 smokers since 2002 when the ban took place.
Taxes: Cigarettes are a popular tax because it is the easiest to justify. In NYC the tax is $4.25 a pack…yep..that’s $4.25 just in tax. Of those who still smoke, the # of heavy smokers has dropped by a third citing the high cost.
What else could be done? Should cigarettes be banned all together? (My son asks me all the time why smoking is legal at all. He considers it a crime for someone to blow smoke in his and his brother’s faces on the street. He makes a beautiful puffer fish-like face holding his breath dramatically and covering his baby brother’s mouth while walking by the offender.) Should smokers have higher premiums considering they are statistically likely to need more health care than a nonsmoker? Most importantly, should people who throw their cigarette butts on my street be forced to eat them? All important and valid questions to consider in the fight for public health.
*Tomorrow we will talk more about my widening butt, don’t worry.