Saturday, April 15, 2006

Should We Regulate Junk Food Like Cigarettes? The War on Fat.

From Goodbye, War On Smoking. Hello, War On Fat in Slate:
In a span of two months, smoking bans have been imposed in Scotland, enacted in England, Denmark, and Uruguay, proposed by the government of Portugal, and endorsed by the French public. China has banned new cigarette factories. In Virginia, our third most prolific tobacco state, senators voted to ban smoking in nearly all public places. The Arkansas legislature, backed by a Republican governor, passed a similar ban and voted to extend this policy to cars in which a child is present. Tobacco companies have won a skirmish here or there, but always in retreat.

So, we've found a new enemy: obesity. Two years ago, the government discovered that the targets of previous crusades—booze, sex, guns, and cigarettes—were killing a smaller percentage of Americans than they used to. The one thing you're not allowed to do in a culture war is win it, so we searched the mortality data for the next big menace. The answer was as plain as the other chin on your face. Obesity, federal officials told us, would soon surpass tobacco as the chief cause of preventable death. They compared it to the Black Death and the Asian tsunami. They sent a team of "disease detectives" to West Virginia to investigate an obesity outbreak. Last month, the surgeon general called obesity "the terror within" and said it would "dwarf 9-11."
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