Free to Choose Obesity?

In an opinion editorial penned by Paul Krugman, which ran in The New York Times yesterday by the same title, "Free to Choose Obesity?" Krugman compares the war on smokers, to the battle of the bulge being waged by public health advocates in the media.

Krugman applauds the successful media savvy campaign against smokers, citing the political ineptitude of Big Tobacco as the major contributor behind the national movement to end cigarette smoking.

In his diatribe Paul states:

One answer is to focus on the financial costs of obesity, and the fact that many of these costs fall on taxpayers and on the general insurance-buying public, rather than on the obese individuals themselves.

So let’s talk about the finances behind obesity. Why are American’s so fat? If we look at the demographics, we will find that in general, lower and middle class American’s have a tendency to have more girth than those of more affluence. A driving factor is the simple fact that it costs money to eat right and to stay healthy.

We know from scientific data that eating a balanced diet keeps us healthy and our body functioning, as it should, but a trip to the grocery store can put things into perspective. Healthy foods such as organic fruits and vegetables cost more than junk food. Genetically modified foods full of additives, preservatives and soy are more economical to purchase than those, which are healthier for the body. People of modest means are simply priced out of the health food market, eating a diet, which consists primarily of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.

Don’t be fooled by our health conscious advocates seemingly altruistic motivations. We have only to look at the health insurance industry to gain a little insight. If insurance companies were truly interested in helping people stay healthy, instead of lining the pockets of the medical community, the health insurance industry would gladly pay for preventative health measures and alternative health care solutions.

Alternative health care measures such as: natural health alternatives, herbal therapy, homeopathic remedies and Chiropractic care have proven over time to be more beneficial, non-addictive, cost effective and less invasive than those methods employed by the allopathic medical community, yet these methods are not covered by any health care plans in the country.

What right does the Krugman have to blame the rising health care costs on smokers and obese people? The system is designed to keep individuals from being healthy.

A driving force behind the claimed 50% reduction in smokers had nothing to do with the huge media campaign. Smokers didn’t wake up one morning and say, "The Surgeon General reported that smoking is bad for my health, so I think I will quit." Au Contraire. Just ask any ex-smoker and you will hear about the cost benefit of stopping. The cost of cigarettes were raised to pay for the huge law suit against big tobacco, then our states did smokers a favor by raising the taxes on cigarettes.

The headline of this 1999 article spells it out clearly, "Cigarette price increases will cut youth smoking by 26 percent."

Next we will see the state suing fast food restaurants like McDonalds because they caused their customers to be obese. Then McDonalds can raise their prices to cover the cost of the lawsuit and just to protect us, the state will raise taxes on fast food to cause the poor to stop eating unhealthy foods. All in the name of cheaper health care costs.

This article from Taiwan shows the logic behind governments manipulation of citizens and how taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners, all for their own good.

One of the problems in controlling tobacco in Taiwan is that cigarette prices are lower in Taiwan than in most countries. In India, smokers have to work 77 minutes to afford a pack of cigarettes, in Indonesia 62 mins, in China 56 mins, but in Taiwan they need only work 7 to 10 mins to afford a pack. As long as the domestic cigarette price remains rather low, we probably will not see much of a decrease in the number of smokers.

Because high excise taxes on cigarettes have been found able to reduce cigarette consumption, such measures are becoming one of the most important means of controlling tobacco. The new tax scheme enacted on 1 January 2002 in Taiwan resulted in NT $16.8 tax excise. This tax included the existing taxes for NT $11.8 and a NT $5 Health & Welfare Tax for a 20-pack of cigarettes. The government also levies 5% sales taxes. Under that tax scheme, the cigarette tax revenues account for 40% of the retail price, which is about NT $42.2. While 40% sounds high, it is actually lower than the taxes imposed on cigarettes in developed countries that have seen some success at lowering cigarette consumption.

Just where do you think they learned these tactics?

If these so called health advocates were truly concerned with children being over weight, they would advocate a shorter school day and more activities for children, when they are in school. It simply isn’t right for children to be forced to sit for hours at a desk. What are school administrators thinking? Are we trying to train up tiny little executives who push paper all day?

Children need activity to stimulate creative thinking, to keep their body in shape and to remain healthy. Parents should not be surprised when their little ones are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, depression, etc… How can they expect anything less from a child who has been kept on a tight leash, in a high stress environment?

When I was a child my mother used to say, "Go outside and play." She said it often and its still good advice today. A great deal of learning takes place when a child is allowed to be alone with their thoughts and use their own creative forces. We spent many enjoyable hours playing outside with sticks, in the dirty, building forts and just being children.

In an age when schools are cutting recess and physical education programs to make way for more standards based curriculum, it’s a wonder every child in the nation isn’t obese. Perhaps it’s time we get our priorities straight?