Why Worry About Covid-19? We Are Ignoring the REAL Problems!

Quarantining people, and finding a vaccine for Covid-19, is only putting a band aid on a much bigger problem. The solution will be temporary. Something else will come along at some point. Additionally, Covid-19 is just a small piece to the puzzle. The root of the problem lies much deeper in the very fabric of our world. There is so much money tied into big tobacco, soda and food companies that most government officials, and “health experts,” choose to ignore the fact those industries are the biggest contributors to our world-wide health crisis.

My name is Trevor Brown. I am not a doctor. I am not a “health expert.” However, I am rational and I am knowledgeable when it comes to fitness, health, and wellness. I own a CrossFit gym in Nebraska. I have made it my mission for eight years to positively change our community through fitness. I have seen proper nutrition, and exercise, change lives in ways nothing else can. I have seen people reverse blood pressure problems and no longer have to rely on medication. I have seen people reverse Type 2 Diabetes. I have seen countless bodies drastically change. I cannot count the number of people who have told me how much better they feel, perform and sleep because they chose to make nutrition and exercise a top priority in their lives.

We can all see the weight loss. We can all see when body fat drops. What we can’t see is how our bodies change on a cellular level when they are healthy. We can’t see blood pressure change (without a machine to test it). We can’t see Diabetes disappear. We cannot see how our bodies are better able to fight off things like Covid-19 because we lead a healthy lifestyle.

We’ve all read the articles, watched the videos and seen the statistics…. The people at highest risk of being hospitalized, or dying, from Covid-19 are older adults, people who smoke/have smoked, and people with underlying health issues or weakened immune systems. This may include some genetic disorders, but in the United States obesity is the most common “underlying health issue.” I think we can all understand that older people are always going to be at higher risk for disease. That is part of the aging process. That is not something unique to Covid-19. With that being said, let’s address the other issues.

Smoking has long been linked to things such as COPD, heart disease, lung cancer, Emphysema, stroke, hypertension and many other diseases. Nobody with any common sense will tell you that smoking is good for your health. What would happen to the health of individuals if smoking no longer existed? What would happen if it were banned globally, everyone bought in, and it simply went away?

Here are some facts from the CDC’s website about smoking related deaths and the costs associated with smoking:

“Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body.

  • More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.
  • For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.
  • Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Smoking is a known cause of erectile dysfunction in males.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.

  • Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year. If the pattern of smoking all over the globe doesn’t change, more than 8 million people a year will die from diseases related to tobacco use by 2030.
  • Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.
  • On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. This represents about one in every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.

The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year on cigarette and smokeless tobacco advertising and promotions.

  • In 2017, $9.36 billion was spent on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco combined—more than $25 million every day, and more than $1 million every hour.
  • Price discounts to retailers account for 71.7% of all cigarette marketing (about $6.19 billion). These are discounts paid in order to reduce the price of cigarettes to consumers.

Smoking costs the United States billions of dollars each year.

  • Total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year, including
    • Nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults
    • More than $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke

State spending on tobacco prevention and control does not meet CDC-recommended levels.

  • States have billions of dollars from the taxes they put on tobacco products and money from lawsuits against cigarette companies that they can use to prevent smoking and help smokers quit. Right now, though, the states only use a very small amount of that money to prevent and control tobacco use.
  • In fiscal year 2019, states will collect a record $27.3 billion from tobacco taxes and settlements in court, but will only spend $655 million in the same year. That’s less than 2.4% spent on programs that can stop young people from becoming smokers and help current smokers quit.
  • Right now, not a single state out of 50 funds these programs at CDC’s “recommended” level. Only two states (Alaska and California) give more than 70% of the full recommended amount. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia spend less than 20 percent of what the CDC recommends. Three states (Connecticut, Tennessee, and West Virginia) give no state funds for prevention and quit-smoking programs.
  • Spending 12% (or about $3.3 billion) of the $27.3 billion would fund every state’s tobacco control program at CDC-recommended levels.”

When you see these numbers, all of a sudden Covid-19 doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. There are 7 million deaths from tobacco use annually. According to the World Health Organization’s Report 59 https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200319-sitrep-59-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=c3dcdef9_2, as of March 19th, there have been less than 9,000 deaths from Covid-19. That is nearly 800x fewer annual deaths than tobacco use causes. How many of those deaths could’ve been prevented if people didn’t smoke and were in generally good health?   

What about obesity? Here are some statistics from the CDC’s website regarding obesity:

  • “The prevalence of obesity was 42.4% in 2017~2018.
  • From 1999–2000 through 2017–2018, the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4%, and the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death.
  • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 US dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight

Health Consequences

People who have obesity, compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following:

  • All-causes of death (mortality)
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning”

The thing that stands out to me the most is that obesity increases a person’s risk for “ALL CAUSES OF DEATH.” I think that we should be focusing our efforts on addressing these two issues more than anything else right now. Smoking/tobacco use and obesity are the real world-wide health concerns. If tobacco use and obesity no longer existed, we could eliminate two of the leading causes of death. Fixing these problems would save more lives than a Covid-19 vaccine/cure ever could.

Sure, Covid-19 is a concern and it is killing people. However, the overwhelming majority of people dying, or being hospitalized, already have underlying health issues. A lot of these are respiratory related issues caused by smoking. In the United States especially, obesity is a major underlying health issue. As we establish previously, older people will always be at a higher risk for disease. What if those “older people” never smoked, had proper nutrition habits and exercised regularly? I bet they would have a much better chance of fighting off any disease.

I read that our government is considering sending Americans $1,000 to help stimulate the economy. They are talking about relief from mortgage payments, tax relief, giving unemployment benefits, and discussing many other ways to “help” people in this time of “crisis.” Why haven’t those same funds been used to promote good health, proper nutrition and ways to prevent disease naturally? The real problem is staring us in the face and has been for a long time.

Here is the unrealistic solution: Take tobacco products, junk food and soda off the shelves. Eliminate them from existence and more lives will be saved, and more disease will be prevented, than anyone could even begin to comprehend.

Here is a more realistic solution: Tax tobacco products…. heavily. If a pack of cigarettes cost $15, fewer people would smoke. Limit the size of any soda product to 12oz. That means cans, bottles, cups in gas stations and restaurants are all limited to 12oz and no more free refills. Tax all processed high sugar foods the same as tobacco products. Implement rules such as stores have to move junk food to the back of the store and take them out of the checkout isles. Move healthier food options to the isles. Instead of handing out $1,000 to people, give a tax reimbursement to people for 50-100% of the money they spend on a gym membership each year. Put together plans that make it advantageous for physicians to prescribe diet and exercise, instead of medication, for Type 2 Diabetes. Give them resources like trainers and nutritionists to help patients. Teach people how to be healthy. Don’t give them an easy way out. Change school lunches making them well-balanced healthy meals. Start teaching classes about disease, health and nutrition from grade school through high school. Make those classes mandatory.

The solution is right in front of us and it is relatively simple. What will it take to make people understand? How do the leading “health experts” in the world, and government officials, we trust to protect us ignore the most obvious things? There is no magic cure. There is no pill or vaccine to fix these problems. It comes down to hard work, discipline and good habits from all of us. More importantly, it will take a major change in mindset from those in charge.