Jennifer Rothman
Jennifer Rothman

Jennifer Rothman is a copywriter and columnist, specializing in delivering informative content you can trust.

Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Is Sitting a New Smoking?

It’s ok to say that sitting is the new smoking if we want to highlight how similar these “activities” are:

  • sitting and smoking have expanded its reach within a short period of time: smoking has widespread among new audiences with the advent of tobacco companies, and sitting – with new technological developments becoming more affordable – TV sets, computers, cars, etc.
  • excessive sitting is a hardly breakable habit, just like smoking is. People who are determined to introduce more physical activity into their lives often get back to their previous lifestyle when the enthusiasm fades away – the same with individuals who return to smoking after quitting it for some time. 

That’s basically it. 

Saying that sitting is the new smoking in terms of its negative effects on health is not scientifically correct, since smoking is still more harmful than prolonged sitting, although the consequences of the latter cannot be underestimated either. 

To state that something is a new something from a medical and biological perspective, smoking and oversitting in our case, we have to compare:

  • how dangerous they are to the health
  • how diverse their negative effects are
  • how they influence people around us and how difficult they are to get rid of – if we’d like to pick on every aspect of the statement.

How dangerous smoking is compared to sedentary behavior?

There are no exact numbers demonstrating the smoking and over-sitting mortality levels, obviously, and that’s why we have to use indirect indicators of their harmfulness.

Data we have at our disposal, suggest that the relative risk of death from all causes is noticeably higher in smokers than in those who lead inactive lives.  

Office “sportspeople” vs. the most “sitting” people  Never smokers vs. heaviest smokers (smoke more than 40 cigarettes per day)
Absolute risk difference  excess deaths from any cause per 100 000 persons per year 2000 190

Which illnesses and morbid states smoking is linked to?

  • Increased risk of lung, oral, breast and cervical cancer
  • Poor vision
  • COPD
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Bronchitis
  • Bad teeth
  • Diabetes complications
  • Mental health problems
  • Heart disease 
  • High cholesterol
  • Reproductive system issues
  • Early menopause 
  • Blood clotting 
  • Increased risk of blood cancer
  • Problems with pregnancy

Which illnesses and morbid states excessive sitting is linked to?

  • Diabetes complications
  • Metabolism problems
  • Mental health problems
  • Heart disease 
  • Reproductive system issues
  • Blood clotting 
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Increased risk of colon, endometrial, lung and breast cancer 

How do smokers affect people around them?

Smokers force others around them into being second-hand smokers. Even if they do it rarely, it does not nullify all the negative effects involuntary smokers have to experience – there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure, should we talk about children or adults. It is associated with ear infections, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, a greater risk of respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in children, cardiovascular diseases, lung and cervical cancer, and a stroke. 

How do “oversitters” affect people around them?

People used to prolonged sitting can also change (or form) the lifestyle of those who are around them, and not in a good way. However, often seeing this bad habit “in action” does not leave us with no choice. 

Meanwhile, smoking often does – and quite unnoticeably – exhaled smoke can easily travel to spaces that are seemingly well protected from it through windows, hallways, closed doors, and stairwells. 

How difficult is giving up smoking vs. giving up excessive sitting? 

Here we can see that smoking and oversitting is hardly comparable again. Smoking is often an addiction caused by changes in brain chemicals functioning, and sitting is more of a habit, although a deeply rooted one.

Addiction does not only imply mental struggles when a person is trying to avoid their object of addiction. Withdrawal symptoms in case of smoking are real and have physical nature as well. And insomnia, gastroenterological issues, sore throat, headaches, excessive sweating, nausea, abdominal cramping and dizziness do not take place when someone is trying to sit less and move more.

Why is even “white” exaggeration bad?

Providing conflicting, artificially exaggerated information, twisting facts and withholding “inconvenient” data is not a good way of impacting people’s choices and opinions in the long term. Very often, they simply do not know whom to listen to. 

Moreover, intentional or unintentional exaggeration of negative health effects often backfires with people underestimating them.


Jennifer Rothman
Jennifer Rothman is a copywriter and columnist, specializing in delivering informative content you can trust. Since graduating from Villanova University, she’s worked with top brands across the fashion, beauty, and health and wellness space to reach global audiences. Eager to share her expert knowledge of the wellness industry, Jennifer continues to craft reliable content that engages readers through the art of storytelling.