Friday, May 23, 2014

Is Food Like Tobacco?

Almost exactly two years ago I warned of the food police, those who have given up on our ability to change behavior and will decide that only heavy-handed governmental interference, interference with our freedoms, will solve the problem.  I stated at that time:  “I guarantee that this will happen (and has happened in the past) each time we don’t take responsibility.  If we don’t fix it ourselves, others will step in with their mandates, programs and artificial incentives, excusing this outside interference as being in the interest of public health…we will have “help" inflicted on us.  One month later, Michael Bloomberg was proposing limits on soft drinks sold in New York City.

Now comes another sign.  According to BBC News two organizations, Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation, propose:  “the food industry should be regulated like the tobacco industry as obesity poses a greater global health risk than cigarettes.”  They call for “pictures on food packaging of damage caused by obesity,” reduced salt, saturated fat and sugar; better food in hospitals and schools; stricter advertising, especially advertising to children; public education programs; elimination of artificial trans-fats; a government review of food prices; new taxes licensing controls; and more government-sponsored research.

Look at what has happened to smokers.  They get no sympathy to their pleas of addiction and plenty of advice from caring friends and relatives about how they must quit for their own health.  They are shunted away from society, smoking out in the cold and rain.  They face higher health insurance premiums.  EEO laws do not protect them, and some companies are open about their bias, stating that they value a healthy workforce.  It’s true that the irritation many non-smokers experience from secondhand smoke did not help their case any, but the model of smoking is eerily similar to that of overeating.  Where will it end?  Trying to get legal protection to keep this from happening is not the right answer.  The answer is behavioral.

This is just another example of a problem created by our own behavior, which if not remedied by behavior, will lead to interference, restrictions, higher costs and general loss of freedom as the government and concerned-citizen groups try to legislate solutions, or take, as the article calls it, “collective action.”

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