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Obese people now outnumber smokers two to one in Scotland as Cancer Research UK urge government to take action

One of the posters from the new Cancer Research UK campaign, comparing obesity to the perils of smoking.
One of the posters from the new Cancer Research UK campaign, comparing obesity to the perils of smoking.

People who are obese now outnumber smokers nearly two to one in Scotland.

That’s according to new figures from Cancer Research UK, as the charity urges government action to tackle obesity.

Around three in ten adults are obese according to the figures, and Cancer Research UK’s analysis revealed being overweight or obese trumps smoking as the leading cause of four types of cancer in Scotland – bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver.

Smoking is still the nation’s biggest preventable cause of cancer and carries a much higher risk of the disease than obesity, however excess weight causes around 190 more cases of bowel cancer than smoking in Scotland each year.

The same pattern is true of cancer in the kidneys (around 130 more cases caused by excess weight than by smoking each year in Scotland), ovaries (around 40) and liver (around 25).

Extra body fat sends out signals that can tell cells to divide more often and, similar to smoking, can cause damage that builds up over time and raises the risk of cancer

The news comes as Cancer Research UK launches a new campaign across the UK, designed to increase awareness of the link between obesity and cancer.

The campaign compares smoking and obesity to show how policy change can help people from healthier habits, not to compare tobacco with food.

In addition, the charity is calling for the Scottish Government to take bold action as part of its forthcoming obesity strategy.

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “There isn’t a silver bullet to reduce obesity, but the huge fall in smoking over the years – partly thanks to advertising and environmental bans – shows that government-led change works. It was needed to tackle sky-high smoking rates, and now the same is true for obesity.

“The Scottish Government must do what it can to make it easier for people here to live a healthier life. In its next Programme for Government, a commitment to introduce laws to restrict the junk food multibuy price promotions that tempt us to eat too much would go a long way to helping us to do a healthier shop.”

Posters with images inspired by old fashioned cigarette packs will be on display at prominent sites across Scotland including at Glasgow Central Station, as well as on bus shelters throughout Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh.