With an astounding 30.6 percent obesity rate, the United States has earned a rather dismal reputation as arguably the most obese country in the world, and some government officials are feeling the need to become more directly involved in controlling the problem. From laws targeting large sodas (my particular “favorite”), to laws concentrating on educating the public with nutrition information, we have begun to see the government taking steps to deal with the problem.
While Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, which according to his own words was designed to deal with diabetes, has thankfully been struck down, it doesn’t appear to be the last we’ll hear from him on the issue. While some people see him as a nanny trying to force his views on others, there are others that see this type of government oversight as a necessary call to action.
First off, I personally believe that the law will do nothing to help the problem, because it merely singles out a single cause of the problem. There are other sources of sugar — some of which have a much higher sugar content than soda, so why stop at soda? Why not ban large candy bars, cakes, ice cream, kids’ cereals, or any other source of sugar? Second, I think the people who really want to lose weight can figure out what to cut from their diet for themselves, or at least enroll in an aerobics or yoga class, gym, or whatever suits their fancy. Third, if you completely ban everything with high amounts of sugar, you will just force the market underground, which is what happened to alcoholic beverages back in the 1920s. The large soda ban makes me imagine underground ice cream parlors being raided by policemen, in a style reminiscent of Elliot Ness, and everyone inside being arrested and sent to jail — just like the old Speakeasies of the Prohibition Era. (This might be a bit of a dramatization, but you get my point.)
Let’s give Bloomberg the benefit of the doubt for now. Consider the fact that diabetes, according to CDC data, has been among the top 10 killers of Americans over the past few years. Millions of dollars are spent on patients with diabetes — both through private insurance and government-subsidized insurance. Add obesity to the mix, and you’ve got even more expenses. Studies show that the obese and morbidly obese are much more likely to develop diabetes as well. That being said, Government interference is an attractive option if you think about it financially. There would be fewer people on the government dole, more taxes coming into the federal coffers, and more consumer spending to stimulate our currently weak economy, if handled correctly.
Also, history shows that messing around with freedom of choice almost never goes well with public opinion. If you want people to eat right, forcing them to do it through law never works out. So what’s the alternative to banning fattening foods? It’s well-established that diet and exercise are great ways to take off unwanted pounds. As an alternative to banning fattening foods, I think Bloomberg (maybe even those in the White House) should take steps to create government-run weight loss programs. Or for the people who are morbidly obese, a plan can be developed in order to help the people lose enough weight for them to be able to move around on their own again. I think this would be a better solution that would have numerous benefits, such as decreasing the burden on government programs and private insurance in the long run by creating more tax revenue (because America would have more taxpayers working regular jobs), reducing the costs health insurance companies face, enabling them to gradually lower the price for health insurance, and increasing the health and well-being of all Americans in general.