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Is fast food today’s cigarette? Starting in 1998, a giant movement started against the Big Tobacco companies, blaming them for all their health related problems. Recently, there have been the same accusations against the big fast food chains. Can fast food and cigarettes really be that alike? Could fast food and obesity take over as America’s number one killer? Honestly, who has not heard of McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Marlboro, Virginia Slims, and Camel? These household names pose a potential threat. Addiction, health problems, expense, and lawsuits can all be attributed to both fast food and cigarettes.


Nicotine is the one agent that keeps smokers addicted. Smokers crave the cigarette; their mindset is one of necessity. The comfort of having a cigarette makes it close to impossible to quit and go through withdraw. Cigarettes contain nicotine which makes them addictive, so what makes fast food addictive? Research suggests fast food can be just as addictive as heroin. They found that rats fed a diet containing 25% sugar are thrown into a state of anxiety when the sugar is removed. The sugar in fast food is addictive, yet the addiction goes deeper than just a physical dependence. "You don't need nicotine or an illegal drug to create an addiction, you're creating a craving," Samuel Hirsch, an attorney who also went after the big tobacco companies, explained. Even a recent movie, Super Size Me Super Size Me, portrayed the addictiveness of fast food. A short while after eating food from the popular food chain McDonalds, the documenter found himself a part of the addiction. This physical and mental addiction are attributes of both cigarettes and fast food.


Most of the world realized the hazardous affects smoking can cause to their body, but how many people know that fast food can also have some negative affects? Fast food restaurants are bad for our society’s health because they serve foods that are richer in energy than our body can handle. Humans are biologically programed to absorb food with low energy levels, so when they eat higher energy level foods, the body will store the extra energy as fat. Fast food also contains more salt and sugar that suggested for a healthy diet. This leads to weight gain. Also, portion sizes are much bigger than the recommended amount which prompts over eating. Disease, which is a common side effect of eating too much unhealthy food, can trigger hypertension, heart and kidney disease, and stroke. Although, society cannot fully blame fast food for the rampant obesity problem, there is a direct correlation between the two. Few people have to be reminded about the hazardous effects of smoking to not only the smoker, but the people around them. Not only does smoking cause cancer, heart disease, bronchitis, emphysema, and stroke, but it can lead to other problems like wrinkles, cavities, bad breath, and stained teeth. Smoking affects every aspect of a person’s life. While smoking and fast food have different health effects on in the United States, they both are bad for our society’s health.


US citizens spent $110 billion on fast food in 2000; in that same year, Americans spent $25 billion on smoking and another $700 billion on trying to stop. As exemplified, tobacco and eating fast food are multibillion dollar industries. Americans spend too much money on things that are killing them. This can be attributed to the convenience of both products. There is no longer a necessity to even get out of the car when ordering food at a fast food restaurant. A large meal can be made even larger with just 25 cents. When pumping gas, cigarettes are only a step away. Because of this convenience, these products are becoming more irresistible.


A recent trend in the news has been about the lawsuits against fast food restaurants and how they relate back to the big tobacco lawsuits of the late nineties. With obesity on the rise to being the number one killer in the United States, lawyers are finding more and more reasons to start a case against the big fast food and snack food companies. There is a lot of money to be won if lawyers can find the “smoking gun” proving fast food plays a big role in obesity today. Like the tobacco companies, lawyers are going after advertising. "We take Joe Camel off the advertising billboard because it is marketing bad products to our children," Brownell, a professor at Yale University, said, "but Ronald McDonald is considered cute. How different are they in their impact, in what they are trying to get kids to do?" On the legal front, it is expected fast food chains will be attacked by the infamous lawyers who went after the tobacco companies. $250 billion dollars were won in settlements from Big Tobacco companies and trial lawyers are ready for the new challange of fast food restaurants.


When initially looking at cigarettes and fast food, there may not be many similarities on the surface. By taking a deeper look at the analogy that fast food is like cigarettes, it is obvious they are more alike then first believed. Both of these products are not only a hazard for society’s health, but keep the customer addicted. America spends billions of dollars on cigarettes and fast food each year, yet blames both of them for their health problems, leading to big lawsuits. So the next time you take a bite of that Big Mac or a puff of a cigarette,

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