Given the success of the anti-smoking movement in establishing government control over tobacco, it’s no surprise that trial lawyers and other self-anointed “food cops” consistently cite the movement as the blueprint for their attacks. That’s because the agenda of these anti-food activists requires wide-ranging and invasive government controls on a completely private matter: what we eat and drink. Today the latest salvo comes from Los Angeles Times business columnist David Lazarus, who muses: “What to do about the obesity epidemic? Here's a thought: Substitute ‘tobacco’ for ‘junk food.’” Lazarus is surprisingly honest about what this could mean down the road, writing that eventually our nation’s food zealots will seek a ban on “junk food” in all workplaces.
Hold on to your candy bowls.
What Lazarus fails to note about his approach is that the parallels between “junk food” and tobacco are pretty much limited to the Big Brother goals of activists. For one, there’s no such thing as “second-hand obesity.” You can quit smoking, but you can't quit food. And there’s no convincing evidence that food is addictive—unless tasting good is the determinant.
And just about any kind of food can be part of a healthy diet, including the occasional “sinful” indulgence. Moderation is the key. That’s why the American Dietetic Association, which represents 70,000 nutrition professionals, rejects the whole idea of a “good” food, “bad” food dichotomy. The ADA writes that “total diet or overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of a healthful eating style. All foods can fit within this pattern, if consumed in moderation.”
It’s curious to see one UCLA health sciences professor remark that the privacy-invading anti-obesity strategy “doesn't seem at all draconian” when, in fact, it calls for the government to try to make personal decisions for all of us. Considering the ultimate goal of the movement is “to make healthy eating unavoidable,” that necessarily means that the government will be taking choices away from consumers.
Are cookies and chips so hazardous to the public that you should have to show proof of ID to buy them? Let’s put the food-is-tobacco theory where it belongs: in the ash heap.