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Noah Smith

Give Obesity the Tobacco Treatment

People responded to health warnings, not taxes.
That stuff will kill you.

That stuff will kill you.

Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Since 1960, a lot fewer Americans have been dying of tobacco and car accidents, and a lot more have been dying of diseases related to obesity. That is the conclusion of a new study by Harvard economist David Cutler and National Bureau of Economic Research scholar Susan Stewart. 

The U.S. obesity problem is staggering. In 1960, 14 percent of the population was obese; in 2010 it was 36 percent. Even though overall life expectancy rose by about seven years in that time, it would have been eight if not for the rise in obesity.