The majority of Americans say the fact that a person smokes or is significantly overweight does not affect their opinion of that person, although 40% say they have a more negative opinion of smokers, and 29% have a more negative opinion of someone who is significantly overweight.
The impact of a person's habits or external appearance on his or her image is a significant factor in today's society, given that groups of people claim they are unfairly discriminated against because of these types of personal characteristics. Smokers have often complained about societal discrimination, and, in recent years, some U.S. states and municipalities have included or are considering including weight in broad laws banning discrimination on the basis of such fundamental personal characteristics as race, gender, or age.
The July Gallup Poll Social Series Consumption Poll probed Americans' images of people who smoke and of those who are significantly overweight. The interpretation of the data depends on one's vantage point. Fifty-six percent of Americans say the fact that a person smokes makes no difference in their opinion of that person, and an even higher 67% say the fact that a person is significantly overweight doesn't affect their opinion. Still, that leaves substantial minorities who say these characteristics do make them think more negatively of a person.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most smokers themselves say the fact that a person smokes doesn't affect their opinion of that person. But almost half of nonsmokers say they feel more negatively about a person if that person smokes. This suggests that smokers should realize that one out of two nonsmokers they come in contact with will think less of them simply because of their tobacco habit.
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