Smoking down, obesity up in Delaware

    The good news in Delaware. Smoking rates are down. But there is a side effect.

    More Delawareans are putting down their cigarettes, according to a report issued by the Delaware Division of Public Health.

    On the other hand more Delawareans are picking up a fork, according to the same study.

    First, the good news. The report shows cigarette smoking among adults in Delaware to be at its lowest level since data collection began in 1982.

    Michelle Eichinger of the Division of Public Health says the number of smokers is down due to a series of efforts at the federal, state and local levels: Anti-smoking laws and intense education that has led to changing attitudes about tobacco use.

    “It’s just a combination of many sectors coming together to address smoking,” she said. “Targeting youth, targeting the community, the Clean Indoor Air Act.”

    According to the report 17.8 percent of Delaware adults reported smoking cigarettes in 2008 — down from 26.6 percent in 1997.

    Conversely, obesity has doubled in the state since 1990, with nearly 28 percent of Delaware adults being obese in 2008.

    The reason? Eichinger says it’s a combination of poor eating habits and a decrease in physical activity.

    She blames a society that’s overly dependent on the automobile and that doesn’t take the time to prepare its own meals.

    “We’re very quick to order out,” she said. “To get something that’s pre-packaged which consequently has a higher sugar content, higher fat content, higher salt content and often larger portion sizes.”

    The results can be deadly. Eichinger says a poor diet and low physical activity can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, strokes and cancer.

    A possible solution? Developing an environment that’s more conducive to being active, Eichinger says.

    “Building sidewalks, access to recreational facilities, access to healthy eating. So that’s where we are focusing our efforts.”

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