Bollocks to the Prohibitionists

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Could Alcohol-Regulation Policies Tame US Obesity Epidemic?” is the title of this story published over at Newsworks. It does not disappoint (emphasis mine):

What if candy stores were closed on Sundays? What if you needed a license to open a doughnut shop?

As America’s weight problem gets bigger, some health researchers say instead of relying on individual willpower alone, it may be time for some new community-level policies.

Deborah Cohen, a physician and public health researcher with the RAND Corporation, suggests that some of the policies we use to control alcohol consumption could help beat back obesity.

“People realized this a couple hundred years ago, that alcohol was a problem,” Cohen said. “So they developed all kinds of regulations to make it less convenient and reduce the odds that people will drink all the time and get drunk.”

Perhaps now it’s time to rein in our easy access to food, Cohen said.

“Choices and decision making are influenced by the context,” she said. “It’s the environment that really determines our behavior and we just don’t appreciate that enough.”

Shaping the environment to discourage overeating could include warning labels for foods high in fat and sugar, or maybe restrictions on where in the grocery store foods are displayed to curb impulse buying.

There could be unintended consequences, warns Jeff Stier, an analyst with the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Ushering in another Prohibition?

“I don’t want to sound extreme, but these are Prohibition-style interventions. I mean do we really need to create a black market for burgers and fries?” Stier said.

“I think we need to teach young people how to enjoy fun foods responsibly, not to teach people that fun foods are bad,” Stier said.

Cohen said education is not enough.

“What we underestimate is the power of food, of it being there and easily accessible to trigger our desires and cravings,” she said.

Stier acknowledges the obesity problem but says some people are crying “obesity emergency” to justify the roll-out of untested laws and taxes.

He reviewed Cohen’s analysis, which appears in the journal Preventing Chronic Diseases.

“I think we have to be clear this was not a scientific study, this was kind of a mind exercise, and in her mind these types of interventions would be a good idea,” Stier said.

When asked the effectiveness of the control policies to fight obesity, Cohen said, “We have to start trying them and see if they work or not.”

-Eapen Thampy

 

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28 Responses to “Bollocks to the Prohibitionists”

  1. #1 |  Jim | 

    Where the hell do these people come from??

  2. #2 |  Paul | 

    In my RSS Fead Reader, I had to check, twice, to see if this article was from The Onion.

  3. #3 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    “When asked the effectiveness of the control policies to fight obesity, Cohen said, “We have to start trying them and see if they work or not.””

    This single line makes me so goddamned angry that I almost can’t see straight. This pious idiot needs to have the words “It was tried. It didn’t work.” branded on his backside, so that he will at least see them in passing every time he jams his head up his ass.

  4. #4 |  CSD | 

    Any chance her supposed research was paid for by Bloomberg LP

  5. #5 |  jb | 

    “People realized this a couple hundred years ago, that alcohol was a problem,” Cohen said. “So they developed all kinds of regulations to make it less convenient and reduce the odds that people will drink all the time and get drunk.”

    I, for one, never get drunk anymore. Thank you, you good people, for caring for me.

  6. #6 |  En Passant | 

    I can’t help but wonder whether Deborah Cohen is just trolling on a grand scale.

    Nobody can actually be as stupid as she appears to be.

    Can they?

  7. #7 |  Fred Bush | 

    The “National Center for Public Policy Research” appears to be some sort of astroturf outfit who, among other things, publish anti-global-warming tracts. Hard to take them seriously.

  8. #8 |  CyniCAl | 

    I recall a story a few years ago about fast-food restaurants being denied business licenses in South Los Angeles. Seems as though the idea is gaining traction. I wonder if the good Dr. Cohen is aware of this ongoing case study, might give her some proof either way.

    Then again, statists always have their cake and eat it too (hehe). If their “solutions” fail, they always fall back on the hypothesis that the effort was insufficient and that more of the solution is needed (see Krugman).

  9. #9 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I realize that I am a lone voice howling in the wilderness here, but could we at least do SIOME celebrating connected to the apparent fact that the primary dietary problem of our poor is that they are too fat?

  10. #10 |  SJE | 

    We really need Prohibition on these stupid laws and the politicians/dealers. Of course, I thought that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment already did that, but apparently the politicians havent read them.

    A lot of the obesity problem is, in fact, a PRODUCT of the same stupid laws. A few:
    1. Agricultural subsidies that raise the relative cost of fresh fruit and veg
    2. FDA rules against various raw, fermented and other foods.
    3. Subsidies for sprawl and car use
    4. Taxes and subsidies that drive medical care to treat people after they get to 400lbs and not before
    5. The distorted role of sport in the educational system, which makes sport something done for glory at school, or profit thereafter, and not for fun. I don’t see many dads getting together for evening baseball or football unless their kids are involved.

  11. #11 |  CyniCAl | 

    @#9 — “Times are changing, now the poor get fat….” — Elton John & Bernie Taupin, “The Bitch is Back,” 1975.

    So it has been noted for at least 37 years. 37 years, goddamn I’m getting old.

  12. #12 |  el coronado | 

    I’m confused. So does this bode well for the burgeoning End the Stupid War on Drugs movement, or not?

  13. #13 |  Aresen | 

    When asked the effectiveness of the control policies to fight obesity, Cohen said, “We have to start trying them and see if they work or not.”

    Hey, go for it!

    Then I’ll drive around town in a nondescript van selling french fries at a buck a fry out of the back.

  14. #14 |  SJE | 

    Obesity in the poor is partly a result of subsidies to less healthy food, overwhelming regulation that favors less healthy food, a medical system that treats diseases rather than preventing them. The poor won’t get healthy overnight, but removing the current stupid subsidies would be a good start.

  15. #15 |  EH | 

    They hate us for our freedoms.

  16. #16 |  EH | 

    CSP: i’m not sure what point you were attempting, but i’m pretty sure the primary dietary problem of the poor is that they’re poor.

  17. #17 |  Bob | 

    Why all this preoccupation with “The Poor”? Has it actually been shown that “The Poor” are indeed much fatter than the other groups? It’s like focusing on blacks and Hispanics for “Drug Intervention” under the misguided notion that they do more drugs. (Hint: They don’t.)

    Wait. I know why. It’s because “The Poor” are “Those other people” that need to be controlled. Obviously, enlightened people won’t be effected by absurd, draconian regulations that won’t work, right? Only “The Poor” will be affected, and they will naturally respond by shaping up and flying right, right?

  18. #18 |  Jack Dempsey | 

    Screw all that noise! Oh wait, I guess I need a nanny.

  19. #19 |  Bill Wells | 

    (Try number 3.)

    Lipidleggin’, F. Paul Wilson, 1978. I want that guy’s crystal ball. :)

  20. #20 |  Onlooker | 

    Yes, these pious busybodies are indeed maddening beyond belief. And yes, they are real, and a real danger to liberty. The road to hell…

  21. #21 |  Mike | 

    We need taxes and regulation on food to prevent people from getting fat.

    Some years go by. People are still fat.

    See? This just shows we need MORE taxes and MORE regulation. The absolute and complete failure of the policy is proof that it will work, must work, if only we do it more!

  22. #22 |  The Poor | 

    Fuck off and quit doing things for us.

  23. #23 |  LBrothers | 

    How about letting your children bike or walk to school once in a while, instead of ferrying them everywhere. Get them out of the house, encourage them to play, quit worrying so much about whether they’ll get abducted or trip in the woods and get a bruise. Give them some goddamn room.

    And the same goes for their fat parents.

  24. #24 |  KPRyan | 

    Cohen works for RAND.

    Anyone not knowing the genesis of that outfit needs to do their homework. Then they’ll understand how such garbage as Cohen’s idea sees the light of day in the first place.

  25. #25 |  Other Sean | 

    EH, you said: “I’m pretty sure the primary dietary problem of the poor is that they’re poor.” Only someone who does not know many poor people could have written those words.

    When did it become fashionable to show concern for the lower classes by refusing to acknowledge who they really are? How exactly does one advance social consciousness by obliterating the consciousness of what people in chronic poverty are really like?

    BOB: Blacks and Hispanics consume drugs at a rate that is very slightly lower than that of whites, but they sell drugs at a massively disproportionate rate, utterly controlling the trade in every major American city.

    When did it become fashionable to fight the drug war by pretending it doesn’t produce a black market disproportionately attractive to minorities? How exactly does one call attention to the horrors of a system that criminalizes the black and hispanic community if one cannot acknowledge that those communities really do produce far more than their share of criminals?

  26. #26 |  marco73 | 

    We are already running Dr. Cohen’s experiment in public schools. Many schools here in Florida have banned soda and candy bars in vending machines. So what is the result so far?
    Convenience stores around area schools have seen increases in purchases of soda and candy bars by school children who then resell the products at a markup in school.
    Schools have of course responded by searching back packs for “illegal” soda and candy bars. Thus school children are smuggling soda and candy bars into schools with a variety of clever methods, and marking up the prices accordingly.
    I have not yet seen any reports of police running “sugar” raids in schools, but how soon before that happens? Once we win the war on drugs, all those SWAT units are going to need something to do.

  27. #27 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Obesity in the poor is partly a result of subsidies to less healthy food

    Not to mention subsidies of the actual poor. Oh, I know it is unpopular to say out loud.

  28. #28 |  Arturo | 

    >What if you needed a license to open a doughnut shop?

    While it may not be specific to doughnuts, it’s hard to imagine a doughnut shop (where doughnuts are actually prepared, not just sold) opening anywhere in the United States without multiple licenses associated with health and safety regulations. Then there’s the business licensing.

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