Americans Do Not Support Bias in Hiring Smokers or the Obese

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According to the latest Gallup Poll.

More than 8 in 10 Americans think it is not right for companies to refuse to hire people just because they are significantly overweight or smoke. Fourteen percent say the practice should be allowed for each.

The views Americans express in the July 7-10 poll are essentially unchanged from prior Gallup readings on the same questions since 2005. In 2003, Gallup also found most Americans saying that if they were in a position to hire someone, it would make no difference to them if that person were overweight (79%) or smoked (74%).

While the new poll found that for the first time a majority of Americans want smoking to be banned in all public places, far fewer people support making it completely illegal in the United States. Taking all these findings about smoking together shows that Americans — while generally in favor of not having others smoke around them — appear mostly supportive of an individual’s freedom of choice to use tobacco.

But, they do favor higher health insurance rates or smokers but not for the very obese.

In contrast to the lack of support for hiring discrimination against smokers, the majority of Americans (60%) say it is justified to set higher health insurance rates for smokers. Thirty-eight percent say it is unjustified.

Similarly, Americans are more supportive of setting higher health insurance rates for people who are significantly overweight than they are of allowing companies not to hire such people (42% vs. 14%). However, the majority — 57% — say it is unjustified to set higher rates just because someone is very overweight.

Here is the chart:

So, what are the implications?

Most Americans say live and let live. As long as YOUR behavior does not affect me, then go for it.

However, a majority does now favor a ban in smoking in public places (as second hand smoke does affect others). But, if you want to eat yourself to poor health and literally to an early death, then it is your business.

As companies across the United States face the challenge of maintaining a healthy, productive workforce and grapple with rising health insurance costs, corporate hiring policies and insurance rates for smokers and very overweight people are becoming prominent issues.

Americans are clear on one point, though — they do not support allowing companies to discriminate against smokers or significantly overweight people when making hiring decisions. Whether a national consensus or corporate policy, however, has any impact on a specific hiring situation is a separate issue. The data confirm that if a man is making the hiring decision, he may be more likely than a woman to discriminate against a very overweight person — similar to what Gallup has found in the past.

Americans are more divided when it comes to how to set health insurance rates for smokers and the very overweight. While a majority say it is justified to set higher rates for smokers, a similar majority says it is unjustified to do the same for significantly overweight people.


Pediatricians Issue Warnings About Energy and Sports Drinks for Children

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Common energy drinks

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued warnings about the appropriateness of sports and energy drinks in this paper. Here is the abstract.

Clinical Report—Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?



Sports and energy drinks are being marketed to children and adolescents for a wide variety of inappropriate uses. Sports drinks and energy drinks are significantly different products, and the terms should not be used interchangeably. The primary objectives of this clinical report are to define the ingredients of sports and energy drinks, categorize the similarities and differences between the products, and discuss misuses and abuses. Secondary objectives are to encourage screening during annual physical examinations for sports and energy drink use, to understand the reasons why youth consumption is widespread, and to improve education aimed at decreasing or eliminating the inappropriate use of these beverages by children and adolescents. Rigorous review and analysis of the literature reveal that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents. Furthermore, frequent or excessive intake of caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents. Discussion regarding the appropriate use of sports drinks in the youth athlete who participates regularly in endurance or high-intensity sports and vigorous physical activity is beyond the scope of this report.

It is important to differentiate between energy drinks which contain a goodly amount of caffeine and other stimulants and sports drinks which contain sugar and electrolytes. I guess use is a matter of moderation and if the child is an athlete for sports drinks.

Sports and energy drinks are hugely popular with kids. But the nation’s pediatricians are not such big fans. They’re now telling kids to lay off the energy drinks, and to use sports drinks only when they really need them — like when they’re playing sports.

A new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that energy drinks, or any other drink with caffeine, should be off limits to children and teenagers. That includes colas and coffee drinks.

But the doctors are particularly worried about energy drinks, particularly since they often contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, and that’s often not clear on the label. The pediatricians say energy drinks often get confused with sports drinks, which generally don’t have caffeine.
Caffeine not only interferes with sleep, it can cause anxiety, raise heartbeats, and increase the risk of dehydration. “There’s great concern about what [caffeine] does over time or in high doses to a young, growing body that’s not fully mature,” says Dr. Holly Benjamin. She is a pediatric sports medicine specialist at the University of Chicago, and coauthor of the new report, which was published in Pediatrics. “It’s almost like a stress to your body.”

Sports drinks don’t have that problem, but they do have sugar as the primary ingredient. That causes another problem. “Kids will drink a Gatorade after school,” Benjamin says. “They’ll drink a Gatorade at lunch. They’ll drink a Gatorade with dinner.”

All that sugar can contribute to obesity and tooth decay, the pediatricians say. Instead, children and teenagers should be drinking water, and lots of it. They also should be drinking two glasses of low-fat milk daily (lots of good protein, vitamin D, and calcium), and perhaps one or two glasses of juice. Benjamin says: “Other than that it’s water, water, water.”

I would always err on the side of caution – no energy drinks, soda or coffee for children. And, sports drinks in moderation, and if in doubt, then use the no sugar sports drinks.

Children have enough energy and really don’t need the sugar, citric acid and caffeine.


American Obesity More than Doubles Between Ages 18 and 30

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According to the latest Gallup Poll.

A leading cause of certain chronic conditions — obesity — surges in Americans’ 20s, more than doubling between the ages of 18 and 30. It peaks at about age 50 and remains prevalent among Americans in their 60s and early 70s before tapering off.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index determines obesity on the basis of respondents’ self-reported height and weight, using traditional Body Mass Index (BMI) scoring. Across 2009 and 2010, an average 27% of Americans were obese, defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher.

Whether the decline in obesity later in life mostly reflects the higher mortality rate of obese people as they age or significant weight loss among seniors is not clear.

Younger Americans must make conscious lifestyle decisions to reduce their weight or they are setting themselves up or increasing rates of weight and diet-related chronic medical conditions later in their lives.


Poll Watch: Thousand Oaks, California is One of the 10 Least Obese Metro Areas in U.S.

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Good News for Thousand Oaks and I certainly am trying to do my part but am unfortunately still obese. But, gosh I am trying to lose the extra weight, eat right and exercise regularly.

More than 20% of Americans were obese in 174 of the 188 U.S. metropolitan areas that Gallup and Healthways surveyed in 2010. In the most obese of these metro areas — Evansville, Ind.-Ky. — 37.8% of residents were obese, compared with 12.9% in the least obese place — Boulder, Colo.

Nationwide, 26.6% of American adults were obese in 2010, unchanged from 2009, but higher than 25.5% in 2008. The average obesity rate in the 10 most obese metro areas surveyed in 2010 was 34.1%, compared with 17.4% in the 10 least obese metro areas.

Gallup tracks U.S. obesity levels as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, using Americans’ self-reported height and weight to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI) scores. BMI scores of 30 or higher are considered obese.

The 2010 metro area findings are extracted from Gallup’s 2010 Daily tracking data set of more than 200,000 U.S. adults, aged 18 and older. Gallup categorizes U.S. metro areas according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s definitions for Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and reports on all MSAs for which there are a minimum of 300 interviews available.

There is quite a bit of good information at the Gallup site, including Gallup’s U.S. City Wellbeing Tracking interactive. Check it out.

But, what is the bottom line of this information?

Good health habits have a clear connection to low disease rates and to higher wellbeing in general. Boulder, the least obese metro area of those surveyed in 2010, also has the highest overall wellbeing score in the United States. In Boulder, 65.2% of residents say they exercise for at least 30 minutes three or more days per week, more than in any other metro area. Exercise and healthy eating, in addition to helping maintain a healthy weight and prevent certain chronic diseases, have important emotional benefits.

The consequences of high obesity rates for cities come in many forms: higher healthcare costs, lower workplace productivity, and unhappier residents. For cities where more than 3 in 10 residents are obese, these problems are even more pronounced and are even more likely to continue from one generation to the next.

Government and business leaders at the city level are in a unique position to tackle the obesity problem. They are the most familiar with their community’s strengths and weaknesses and can use their knowledge to create policies and programs to target efforts to help reduce obesity in their area.

And, indeed if we all wish to lead happier, more productive and healthier lives, we must all do our part.