Americans Fatter Than
Ever And Still Smoking
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are fatter than ever and the proportion of smokers hasn't fallen for a decade but at least they are hearing the seat belt message. A lifestyle survey released by the Harris Poll Tuesday found that 76 percent of Americans are overweight and 28 percent of them are more than 20 percent over the recommended weight for their height and body type.
``Americans, who are surely the most overweight people on earth, continue to add yet more pounds,'' the poll said. The Harris Poll has asked the same questions every year since 1983, making a historical comparison possible.
The 76 percent figure compared with a low of 56 percent in 1984 and a previous record of 74 percent in 1996. With minor fluctuations the trend has been steadily upward.
In what it called a surprising result given the strength of the anti-tobacco movement in the United States, Harris found that 26 percent of Americans still smoke cigarettes, plus three percent who smoke pipes or cigars but not cigarettes.
Since 1986 the polls have found the proportion of cigarette smokers among adults varying between 24 and 28 percent -- too narrow a range to say much about change from year to year. But on seat belts, 1998 broke another record for safety consciousness. Seventy-seven percent of the 1,005 adults told the pollsters that they always use them, against 19 percent in 1983 and 74 percent in 1997.
The incidence of unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle habits tends to decline as education levels rise. Only eight percent of people with a post-graduate education smoke, compared with 31 percent of people who did not graduate from high school.
Similar trends apply to weight and seat belt use. The Harris Poll said the results had a statistical precision of plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling and other factors may also distort the conclusions.

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