General Question

Charles's avatar

Which is more unhealthy? A donut or a cigarette?

Asked by Charles (4804points) January 1st, 2012

All other things being equal, which makes your life unhealthier?

Extrapolate a bit: Compare if you smoked three cigarettes a day vs eating three donuts ( assume 1000 calories total) a day.

Eating an extra 1000 calories a day will cause you to put on weight quite rapidly (remember all things being equal – no extra exercising to burn off the extra calories).

Will three cigarettes significantly increase your risk of lung cancer or emphysema?

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29 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Neither are great, but, really, it’s all a matter of genetics and luck.
There are thin people that have heart disease and high cholesterol and fat smokers that live a normal lifespan. One never knows.

I’d choose the 3 cigarettes a day over the 1000 calories of lard and sugar. But, that’s just me.

Mariah's avatar

For me, the cigarette would be far worse; I need to gain weight. I know sugar and carbs isn’t the best way to gain weight but the calories are a-okay for me.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m going to agree with @Coloma‘s answer, but I want to smoke the cigarettes all within a few hours, and the rest of the day give my lungs the chance to clear. The problem is the addiction might make that very difficult.

Ironically, in my life I actually overeat and eat high fat high cholesterol foods all too often, which with my family history is basically an early death sentence, and don’t smoke, maybe I should take up smoking? Although, I don’t overeat 1,000 calories a day, that’s a lot.

PhiNotPi's avatar

There are many reasons to choose the donuts:
1) They aren’t as addictive. This would allow someone, after however many years of consumption, to stop more easily. Yes, they can be addicting, but not as much. The addiction if cigarettes might cause the three-a-day regime to collapse quickly.
2) The affects are semi-reversible. If someone lives a healthy live, exercise, eat healthy except for the donuts, the effects can be for the most part reversed. There is no amount of exercise that can un-destroy your lungs. The lung damage is much more permanent.

There are many reasons to choose cigarettes.
1) Assuming that you don’t get cancer or stray from the plan, smoking three cigarettes each day might not have substantial effects on lifespan, but 1,000 calories will always do something bad.
2) Some people can contract heart disease much more easily than others. If you already have a diet where you overeat, the donuts will have a much larger negative effect.

marinelife's avatar

You keep saying that all things are equal, but I don’t know anyone who can smoke just three cigarettes a day. Nicotine is highly addictive.

I could eat three donuts a day for a month and on the 31st day I could not have any with no repercussions. That is not true of cigarettes.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@marinelife I agree. I have never heard of anyone being able to smoke only three cigarettes each day. For people who are very addicted, they measure their consumption of cigarettes in packs of cigarettes per day.

Coloma's avatar


That is mostly true, but, I have a friend that only smokes one or two cigarettes a day, or a few more when she has some wine. She really enjoys those couple but is very disciplined at keeping the habit to that minimum.


I hear ya, I am still loaded over here with fat foods, pie, candy, dips, dressings..OMG…make it stop! lol

Earthgirl's avatar

Smoking is directly linked to Heart Disease also. See here:

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I’ll have a cigarette after my doughnut, thanks.
Stress is worse for your body than both, so I’m going to do my best not to worry about it. ;)

john65pennington's avatar

Its funny that you should ask this question at this time. I have just had three doughnuts and about to engage in a Marlboro cigarette.

I have been eating doughnuts and smoking for 52 yers. Last year, my annual physical report, stated I was in good health.

I know I need to quit both, but I never will.

I have been blessed.

zenvelo's avatar

Even one cigarette can cause harm. It’s not going to knock you over right away, but it is harmful.

Eating three doughnuts a day is at least reversible.

These types of questions are a false choice, so it really means nothing to choose. Its like, “Should I stand on the freeway for an hour or on a train track for a day? Is it better to get hit by a lot of cars, or once by a train?” Either way, you end up a bloody mess.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I think that the ceteris paribus clause of the question makes no sense. If I eat three donuts a day, I’m going to have less of an appetite for other things. It’s not just a matter of 1000 extra calories. Moreover, the whole reason why some things are healthier than others is because things are not equal.

If I asked: “all other things being equal, which is safer: vitamin C poisoning or vitamin E poisoning?” I expect that I would get back the response “neither, they are both cases of poisoning.” So I might change it to “all other things being equal, which is safer: too much vitamin C or too much vitamin E?” Again, I would probably be told “both are too much.”

These responses would be correct, yet it remains the case that taking a lot of vitamin C is safer than taking a lot of vitamin E. Why? Because all things are not equal. Vitamin C is harder to overdose on, has less severe side-effects, and is easier for the body to get rid of than vitamin E. The actual risks are less than the theoretical risks.

To answer the question, then, I’m going to say that cigarettes are the worse option in most cases. It is easier to smoke way too many cigarettes than it is to eat way too many donuts, bodies tend to want to maintain certain weight levels (though overeating can effect this), and the effects of the donuts can be exercised away,

For almost any malady, though, there will be some people who are mysteriously immune to it. My father-in-law’s lungs are completely clear despite a life of smoking and working with asbestos. In his case, the donuts would probably be the worse option. This is quite rare, however, while what I’ve said about donuts is quite common. As such, it seems reasonable to say that—generally speaking—the cigarettes are worse than the donuts.

King_Pariah's avatar

I’ll take the cig, over the span of 4 years I have never found myself to be addicted to them. I can easily go months on end without smoking one and haven’t found any detrimental effects, I still can any cardio activity (except dance, but that’s due to a broken foot) harder and longer than I have before. So as long as I’m not sensing that I’m in the process of getting killed by these little neat soldiers of death, then I don’t care. Meanwhile the donut tends to upset my stomach.

BosM's avatar

Donuts don’t come with a warning label from the surgeon general, are not known to cause cancer, and taste much better :). I get your question and it is true – anything in excess is not good for you, but a habit that is linked to cancer has to be the greater of the two evils, IMHO.

Sunny2's avatar

You’re going to die anyway, choose your poison? I ‘d choose donuts. I eat 3 donuts a year, so it will be sloooow death.

Earthgirl's avatar

Zenvolo My thoughts exactly,it’s a false choice.

As Coloma pointed out, as well as others, a certain amount depends on your genetic makeup. Russian roulette, anybody??

SavoirFaire I enjoyed your dissection of the question and logical analysis of the choices.

Coloma's avatar

I do tend to agree and laugh at @zenvelo ‘s response

Yes, death by coronary artery disease or BBQ’d lungs, it is an awful lot like the anaology presented by @zenvelo

I dunno..I think I’ll take the big hit by the bus, than the multiple hits on the freeway. lol

Earthgirl's avatar

Coloma How about BBQ’d lungs combined with Coronary artery disease? That is what smoking can do.

Earthgirl's avatar

And agsin, there are too many variables but if I were making a choice between quick death and slow lingering death I’d bank on Heart Disease for a quick exit!

JLeslie's avatar

@BosM Well, the US government actually does believe obesity increases cancer risk.

1 in 3 people in the US die from heart disease, including women. Women account for about half of all deaths from Heart disease. More women die each year from heart disease than all cancers combined, I don’t know the stat for men.

People with risks for heart disease are more likely to get heart disease younger than they develop cancer. My family has very little cancer, they all dropped dead before the age of 50 from heart attacks. My father had bypass at 46, so if not for medical technology he would be dead most likely. He did smoke for about 20 years, but had not smoked in years when he was diagnosed. His mom was not a smoker, she actually died at 52 I think, and my my great uncles and great grandfather on my mom’s side died in their late 30’s and 40’s, they did not smoke.

Cancer does suck more though in general than dealing with heart disease, depending on the ailment and treatment of course.

I’m not saying people should go ahead and smoke, because smoking contributes to heart disease also, but right now in the US scientists believe the thing killing most Americans is obesity, and the diseases that come with.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie I heard a few years ago that the surgeon general had said that stress was worse than even smoking, in terms of stress related disease, which includes hypertension and heart attack.

I agree with whoever said above that stress is worse than just about anything else.

A happy, relaxed smoker is probably at less risk than an angry type A non-smoker.

On an interesting side note, my ex MIL quit smoking in her early 40’s and came down with Rheumatoid (sp?) arthritis a year later, her doctor said he thought the stress of quitting smoking brought it on!


How’s that for a catch 22?

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma I swear you just can’t win. And, also, the stats I cited, if everyone was smoking the cancer stats would rise, and so then the stats would shift of course.

Joy Behar, the comedian, always says the French are thin because they smoke. She isn’t really trying to pick on the French, but it makes me wonder what the correlations are between how many smokers in a country and the obesity rates. Most of us need some sort of vice I guess.

Coloma's avatar


And, the french are renowned for their wines & pastries..smoking, wine and fat laden pastries…I think they live a good life. lol

zenvelo's avatar

self-redacted as this is in General, not social

Coloma's avatar

Also, I had an aunt that died of colon cancer at 63 after a 3 year illness. She was the picture of health, no vices, ever…but, the doctors said it was probably her red meat consumpion—I think it was also her “anal” personality style, truly.

It is true, you can stack the deck in your favor and live a life of asceticism, and still die, or, you can live a little.

Honestly, the angriest people I have ever known are the ones that died early after a life of purity. They felt very cheated.

Just goes to show that doing everything “right” offers no guarantees.

Coloma's avatar


Makes sense, junk goes global. haha
Aaah, the middle path, neither recklessly stupid nor neurotically deprived, that’s my mantra. ;-)

Coloma's avatar

Oops. mea culpa, going on about off topic musings…same here, never mind, carry on.

judochop's avatar

Contain Carbon Monoxide.
Causes Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.
Depletes your Vitamin D which will lead to Osteoporosis.
Depletes Vitamin E and causes Atherosclerosis.
Depletes Vitamin C and hardens your arteries.
Not to mention respiratory issues out the wazoo.
More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.
An estimated 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.
Deep fried bread.
Full of fat.
Lot’s of calories.
Possible Diabetes.
go donut!!!

mattbrowne's avatar

Over 4000 chemical compounds created by burning a cigarette enter the human body compared to less than 50 of a donut.

The human body was designed to digest carbs, proteins and fat.

The human body was not designed to inhale

acetanisole, acetic acid, acetoin, acetophenone, 6-acetoxydihydrotheaspirane, 2-acetyl-3-ethylpyrazine, 2-acetyl-5-methylfuran, acetylpyrazine, 2-acetylpyridine, 3-acetylpyridine, 2-acetylthiazole, aconitic acid, dl-alanine, allyl hexanoate, allyl ionone, ambergris tincture, ammonia, ammonium bicarbonate, ammonium hydroxide, ammonium phosphate dibasic, ammonium sulfide, amyl alcohol, amyl butyrate, amyl formate, amyl octanoate, alpha-amylcinnamaldehyde, trans-anethole, anisyl acetate, anisyl alcohol, anisyl formate, anisyl phenylacetate, 1-arginine, ascorbic acid, 1-asparagine monohydrate, 1-aspartic acid, beeswax white, beet juice concentrate, benzaldehyde, benzaldehyde glyceryl acetal, benzoic acid, benzoin, benzoin resin, benzophenone, benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate, benzyl butyrate, benzyl cinnamate, benzyl propionate, benzyl salicylate, bisabolene, borneol, bornyl acetate, 1,3-butanediol, 2,3-butanedione, 1-butanol, 2-butanone, 2-butenylidene-3,5,5, trimethyl-2-cyclohexen-1-one, butyl acetate, butyl butyrate, butyl butyryl lactate, butyl isovalerate, butyl phenylacetate, butyl undecylenate, 3-butylidenephthalide, butyric acid], cadinene, caffeine, calcium carbonate, camphene, capsicum oleoresin, caramel color, carbon dioxide, beta-carotene, carvacrol, 4-carvomenthenol, 1-carvone, beta-caryophyllene, beta-caryophyllene oxide, cedrol, cellulose fiber, chocolate, cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, cinnamyl acetate, cinnamyl alcohol, cinnamyl cinnamate, cinnamyl isovalerate, cinnamyl propionate, citral, citric acid, dl-citronellol, citronellyl butyrate, itronellyl isobutyrate, civet absolute, cocoa, coffee, corn silk, cuminaldehyde, para-cymene, 1-cysteine, 2-trans, 4-trans-decadienal, delta-decalactone, gamma-decalactone, decanal, decanoic acid, 1-decanol, 2-decenal, dehydro-menthofuro-lactone, diethyl malonate, diethyl sebacate, 2,3-diethylpyrazine, dihydro anethole, 5,7-dihydro-2-methylthieno(3,4-d) pyrimidine, meta-dimethoxybenzene, para-dimethoxybenzene, 2,6-dimethoxyphenol, dimethyl succinate, 3,4-dimethyl-1,2 cyclopentanedione, 3,5— dimethyl-1,2-cyclopentanedione, 3,7-dimethyl-1,3,6-octatriene, 4,5-dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2,5-dihydrofuran-2-one, 6,10-dimethyl-5,9-undecadien-2-one, 3,7-dimethyl-6-octenoic acid, 2,4 dimethylacetophenone, alpha,para-dimethylbenzyl alcohol, alpha,alpha-dimethylphenethyl acetate, alpha,alpha dimethylphenethyl butyrate, 2,3-dimethylpyrazine, 2,5-dimethylpyrazine, 2,6-dimethylpyrazine, dimethyl-tetrahydro-benzofuranone, delta-dodecalactone, gamma-dodecalactone, para-ethoxybenzaldehyde, ethyl 10-undecenoate, ethyl 2-methylbutyrate, ethyl acetate, ethyl acetoacetate, ethyl alcohol, ethyl benzoate, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl decanoate, ethyl fenchol, ethyl furoate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl hexanoate, ethyl isovalerate, ethyl lactate, ethyl laurate, ethyl levulinate, ethyl maltol, ethyl methyl phenylglycidate, ethyl myristate, ethyl nonanoate, ethyl octadecanoate, ethyl octanoate, ethyl oleate, ethyl palmitate, ethyl phenylacetate, ethyl propionate, ethyl salicylate, ethyl trans-2-butenoate, ethyl valerate, ethyl vanillin, 2-ethyl-methoxypyrazine, 2-ethyl-1-hexanol, 3-ethyl-2-hydroxy-2-cyclopenten-1-one, 2-ethyl-3, 5-dimethylpyrazine, 5-ethyl-3-hydroxy-4-methyl-2-furanone, 2-ethyl-3-methylpyrazine, 4-ethylbenzaldehyde, 4-ethylguaiacol, para-ethylphenol, 3-ethylpyridine, eucalyptol, farnesol, d-fenchone, fig juice concentrate, food starch modified, furfuryl mercaptan, 4–2-furyl-3-buten-2-one, genet absolute, geraniol, geranyl acetate, geranyl butyrate, geranyl formate, geranyl isovalerate, geranyl phenylacetate, 1-glutamic acid, 1-glutamine, glycerol, glycyrrhizin ammoniated, grape juice concentrate, guaiacol, guar gum, 2,4-heptadienal, gamma-heptalactone, heptanoic acid, 2-heptanone, 3-hepten-2-one, 2-hepten-4-one, 4-heptenal, trans-2-heptenal, heptyl acetate, omega-6-hexadecenlactone, gamma-hexalactone, hexanal, hexanoic acid, 2-hexen-1-ol, 3-hexen-1-ol, cis-3-hexen-1-yl acetate, 2-hexenal, 3-hexenoic acid, trans-2-hexenoic acid, cis-3-hexenyl formate, hexyl 2-methylbutyrate, hexyl acetate, hexyl alcohol, hexyl phenylacetate, 1-histidine, honey, hydrolyzed milk solids, hydrolyzed plant proteins, 5-hydroxy-2,4-decadienoic acid delta- lactone, 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3-furanone, 2-hydroxy-3,5,5-trimethyl-2-cyclohexen-1-one, 4-hydroxy-3-pentenoic acid lactone, 2-hydroxy-4-methylbenzaldehyde, 4-hydroxybutanoic acid lactone, hydroxycitronellal, 6-hydroxydi-hydrotheaspirane, 4-para-hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone, alpha-ionone, beta-ionone, alpha-irone, isoamyl acetate, isoamyl benzoate, isoamyl butyrate, isoamyl cinnamate, isoamyl formate, isoamyl hexanoate, isoamyl isovalerate, isoamyl octanoate, isoamyl phenylacetate, isobornyl acetate, isobutyl acetate, isobutyl alcohol, isobutyl cinnamate, isobutyl phenylacetate, isobutyl salicylate, 2-isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine, alpha-isobutylphenethyl alcohol, isobutyraldehyde, isobutyric acid, d,l-isoleucine, alpha-isomethylionone, 2-isopropylphenol, isovaleric acid, labdanum absolute and oleoresin, lactic acid, lauric acid, lauric aldehyde, 1-leucine, levulinic acid, linalool, linalool oxide, linalyl acetate, linden flowers, 1-lysine], magnesium carbonate, malic acid, maltodextrin, maltol, maltyl isobutyrate, maple syrup and concentrate, para-mentha-8-thiol-3-one, menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate, dl-methionine, methoprene, 2-methoxy-4-methylphenol, 2-methoxy-4-vinylphenol, para-methoxybenzaldehyde, 1-para-methoxyphenyl-1-penten-3-one, 4-para-methoxyphenyl-2-butanone, 1-para-methoxyphenyl-2-propanone, methoxypyrazine, methyl 2-furoate, methyl 2-octynoate, methyl 2-pyrrolyl ketone, methyl anisate, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl dihydrojasmonate, methyl ester of rosin, partially hydrogenated, methyl isovalerate, methyl linoleate, methyl linolenate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl nicotinate, methyl phenylacetate, methyl salicylate, methyl sulfide, 3-methyl-1-cyclopentadecanone, 4-methyl-1-phenyl-2-pentanone, 5-methyl-2-phenyl-2-hexenal, 5-methyl-2-thiophenecarboxaldehyde, 6-methyl-3–5-heptadien-2-one, 2-methyl-3—(para-isopropylphenyl) propionaldehyde, 5-methyl-3-hexen-2-one, 1-methyl-3methoxy-4-isopropylbenzene, 4-methyl-3-pentene-2-one, 2-methyl-4-phenylbutyraldehyde, 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one, 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol, 4-methyl-5-vinylthiazole, methyl-alpha-ionone, methyl-trans-2-butenoic acid, 4-methylacetophenone, para-methylanisole, alpha-methylbenzyl acetate, alpha-methylbenzyl alcohol, 2-methylbutyraldehyde, 3-methylbutyraldehyde, 2-methylbutyric acid, alpha-methylcinnamaldehyde, methylcyclopentenolone, 2-methylheptanoic acid, 2-methylhexanoic acid, 3-methylpentanoic acid, 4-methylpentanoic acid, 2-methylpyrazine, 5-methylquinoxaline, 2-methyltetrahydrofuran-3-one, (methylthio)methylpyrazine (mixture of isomers), 3-methylthiopropionaldehyde, methyl 3-methylthiopropionate, 2-methylvaleric acid, mullein flowers, myristaldehyde, myristic acid, beta-napthyl ethyl ether, nerol, nerolidol, nona-2-trans,6-cis-dienal, 2,6-nonadien-1-ol, gamma-nonalactone, nonanal, nonanoic acid, nonanone, trans-2-nonen-1-ol, 2-nonenal, nonyl acetate, oak moss absolute, 9,12-octadecadienoic acid and 9,12,15-octadecatrienoic acid, delta-octalactone, gamma-octalactone, octanal, octanoic acid, 1-octanol, 2-octanone, 3-octen-2-one, 1-octen-3-ol, 1-octen-3-yl acetate, 2-octenal, octyl isobutyrate, oleic acid, orange blossoms water, absolute, and leaf absolute, palmitic acid, omega-pentadecalactone, 2,3-pentanedione, 2-pentanone, 4-pentenoic acid, 2-pentylpyridine, alpha-phellandrene, 2-phenenthyl acetate, phenenthyl alcohol, phenethyl butyrate, phenethyl cinnamate, phenethyl isobutyrate, phenethyl isovalerate, phenethyl phenylacetate, phenethyl salicylate, 1-phenyl-1-propanol, 3-phenyl-1-propanol, 2-phenyl-2-butenal, 4-phenyl-3-buten-2-ol, 4-phenyl-3-buten-2-one, phenylacetaldehyde, phenylacetic acid, 1-phenylalanine, 3-phenylpropionaldehyde, 3-phenylpropionic acid, 3-phenylpropyl acetate, 3-phenylpropyl cinnamate, 2–3-phenyl-propyl-tetrahydrofuran, phosphoric acid, pineapple juice concentrate, alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, d-piperitone, piperonal, plum juice, potassium sorbate, 1-proline, propenylguaethol, propionic acid, propyl acetate, propyl para-hydroxybenzoate, propylene glycol, 3-propylidenephthalide, prune juice and concentrate, pyridine, pyrrole, pyruvic acid, raisin juice concentrate, rhodinol, rum, rum ether, salicylaldehyde, sclareolide, skatole, sodium acetate, sodium benzoate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium chloride, sodium citrate, sodium hydroxide, solanone, sucrose octaacetate, sugar alcohols, sugars, tannic acid, tartaric acid, tea leaf and absolute, alpha-terpineol, terpinolene, terpinyl acetate, 5,6,7,8-tetrahydroquinoxaline, 1,5,5,9-tetramethyl-13-oxatricyclo-9-tridecane, 2,3,4,5, and 3,4,5,6-tetramethylethyl-cyclohexanone, 2,3,5,6-tetramethylpyrazine, thiamine hydrochloride, thiazole, 1-threonine, thymol, tochopherols (mixed), tolualdehydes, para-tolyl 3-methylbutyrate, para-tolyl acetaldehyde, para-tolyl acetate, para-tolyl isobutyrate, para-tolyl phenylacetate, triacetin, 2-tridecanone, 2-tridecenal, triethyl citrate, 3,5,5-trimethyl-1-hexanol, para,alpha,alpha-trimethylbenzyl alcohol, 4–6-trimethyl-cyclohex-1-enyl but-2-en-4-one, 2,6,6-trimethylcyclohex-2-ene-1,4-dione, 2,6,6-trimethylcyclohexa-1,3-dienyl methan, 4—(2,6,6-trimethylcyclohexa-1,3-dienyl)but-2-en-4-one, 2,2,6-trimethylcyclohexanone, 2,3,5-trimethylpyrazine, 1-tyrosine, delta-undercalactone, gamma-undecalactone, undecanal, 2-undecanone, 1, 0-undecenal, urea, valencene, valeraldehyde, valeric acid, gamma-valerolactone, valine, vanillin, veratraldehyde, xanthan and 3,4-xylenol.

Go with the donut, man.

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