Why Are People More Dismissive Of Smokers Than Those Who Are Overweight?

Apr 9, 2015

Credit Fried Dough / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

More Kentuckians are supportive of higher insurance rates for smokers than for those who are obese, according to a new health issues poll.

The Foundation for a Health Kentucky conducted the study which found a majority of non smokers and former smokers agree higher rates are justifiable for smokers.

Murray State University psychology professor Sean Rife says part of that difference is that people see smoking as an active choice while obesity is more complicated.

“Whereas non-smokers have never smoked, and in fact are probably feeling somewhat maybe inconvenienced by people who smoke around them, we don’t really have that experience with people who are overweight,” he said. “People who are overweight we can often identify with them because most of us have struggled with controlling our weight.”

Rife added that some people may see smoking as a moral issue, but they don’t feel that way about people who are overweight.

“Smoking bans are becoming much more common and people are much more willing to ask people not to smoke,” he said. “So I think that as a society we’ve really come to maybe see some judgement there as being more appropriate, whereas that’s not something we see for people who are overweight. That’s viewed as more of a private issue.”

The poll also found people who were in poor or fair health were much more likely, at 77 percent, to find charging overweight people unjustifiable while more while just 58 percent of those in excellent health found the move unjustifiable.