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Please begin with an informative title:

This week the governor of the nation's most obese state, Mississippi, passed a law preventing counties, districts, and towns from limiting portion sizes on food and drink.   The measure was called an "anti-Bloomberg" bill after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's failed attempt to prevent people from buying bucket-sized soft drinks.  Last week at CPAC Sarah Palin also took a jab at Bloomberg by hoisting a Super Big Gulp to wild applause from freedom-loving Republicans.  

Ahh, Sarah Palin--so passionate about everything except leading Alaska.
While Republicans have a maddening habit of reducing everything to "Don't tread on me" (see GOP fight to preserve styrofoam in the House cafeteria), they may accidentally have a point here.  Maybe legislation is not the solution to our weight problem.  After all, in a New York City without 16 ounce sodas you could still order a Kentucky Fried Chicken Double Down sandwich--essentially a cheese and bacon sandwich with 2 fried chicken patties serving as the "bread."

Nobody argues whether obesity is out of control in our nation.  Just take a trip to Walmart and you're bound to see people resigned to put-putting their 350 pounds up and down the aisles on a motorized scooter.  This uniquely American phenomenon now costs our healthcare system more than smoking--a portly $190 billion a year.  Severe obesity can reduce life expectancy by up to ten years.  

Some claim that this obesity is nothing more than the result of poor choices.  But one thing to consider is the wisdom of massive subsidies of crops like corn that keep costs of corn syrup and corn-fed livestock low.  Is it an accident that the nation's most obese state is also its poorest?  Families that want to eat healthier foods such as organic fruits and vegetables often can't afford to. Subsidizing healthier foods could begin to transform this unhealthy dynamic.

In addition to lowering cost of healthy foods, could some selective taxes on unhealthy food and drink help to change bad habits?  Consider tobacco use trends in the United States.  Smoking used to be a part of the American identity--from teacher's lounges right down to doctors in the operating room, cigarettes were a ubiquitous part of our daily lives for many years.  Take a look at this graph of cigarette costs:

   In 1970
        Average cost per pack was $0.38
        Average tax per pack was $0.18
    In 2011
        Average cost per pack was $5.62
        Average tax per pack was $2.35
Now look at smoking rates over roughly the same period:
What's up with that spike in student smoking in the mid-90s?  Was that Joe Camel's fault?

At any rate, pricing and tax increases has been an important part of bringing smoking rates down.  Obviously it would be complicated to work out classifications of healthy vs. non-healthy foods, but perhaps this approach could work with eating habits as well.  

(By the way, we could also use an iconic figure to be our national healthy eating spokesperson.  Is Sarah Palin busy?)


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