A Data Science Central Community
This discussion is about how to correctly assess costs and benefits of smoking versus obesity to society, and where to get reliable data sources, and how to properly clean data. It is also about healthcare policies and the new health insurance regulations, sometimes referred to as Obamacare.
To decide whether smoking is more dangerous than obesity, how would you proceed? How do you compute all the costs:
Potential benefits of smoking and obesity:
Some will argue that those seeking self-destruction would do so even if cigarettes and big fat hamburgers were illegal, possibly using illegal products instead, which would be even worse (remember the prohibition and the alcohol black market). Also, as cigarette smokers die before retirement, they save tons of money to social security. They also allow scientists do research on many different cancers and heart problems - research that would otherwise be more limited without all the smokers and the obese. Smoking also provide huge taxes to state governments, and cigarette manufacturing employs thousands of workers.
And some would even say that smoking is a natural selection process that put some downward pressures on over-population, due to shorter lifetimes of smokers. Because it is self-inflicted, it is not as bad as famines, wars, diseases, or road accidents.
Health insurance issues:
Finally, a question about health insurance. Should an insurer ask how many hamburgers per week you eat, to determine your premium? We already ask for cigarettes (by why not for alcohol or illegal drugs?) And what about smokers who switch to tar-free cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or people eating fat-free hamburgers?
To summarize, how to gather and blend all the data, analyse it, incorporate financial gains - not just losses associated with these bad habits - and come up with strategies to improve the situation - strategies that involve multiple, competing government agencies? And how do you measure improvement (lift)?