Will the New Food Laws Increase Weight Discrimination?

Anti-obesity laws put a new spin on health legislation

Banning trans fats. Requiring calorie counts and nutritional information be printed on menus. Reforming school lunches. Even banning the toy from McDonald's Happy Meals. There has been a recent spate of local laws that are attempting to curb the "obesity crisis" through legislation. While some are lauded and others mocked, nobody seems to be able to agree as to whether or not these laws are a good thing. Should the government be involved in telling people if they can put pie in their pie-hole?

Call them the anti-anti-obesity laws: Over the past few months state legislators in many states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Utah, Tennessee and most recently, Ohio, have quietly passed legislation that would limit communities from passing anti-obesity laws. What's going on -- are states saying they want you to die young from heart disease and diabetes? Or are they saying they respect people's ability to make their own choices when it comes to what they eat?

Neither, actually. The new laws, often quietly slipped in at the 11th hour, seem to be more about who gets to make the laws than about what's in them. Local governments are getting cut out in favor of larger, more comprehensive laws that will come down from the state or national level.

On one hand, writes The New York Times, "In some cases, lawmakers are responding to complaints from business owners who are weary of playing whack-a-mole with varying regulations from one city to the next.

But on the other hand it makes it harder for communities to enact laws that will support specific issues that they face. Says William H. Roach Jr., chairman of the American Heart Association, “This battle will involve policy changes at all levels of government, but it is easier fought locally because it allows greater accountability to ensure implementation and addresses the unique needs of communities.”

Either way it seems that all of the laws open the door for more discrimination against overweight and obese people, a problem which is already rampant in healthcare today. Just recently it was discovered that obese women are being refused gynecological care in some places solely because of their weight.

Do you think government should be able to legislate health? And if so, should it be done by the city, the state or the federal government?

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