For years America has been one of the most obese countries on earth, and for a long while it had the title of The Most Obese National on earth. This year Mexico has surpassed the US in that title, but this is not necessarily the result of the US getting any bettering, but Mexico sinking into the same problem that the US sinks into. One of the book problems is not necessarily the individuals, but instead the big business of food. Most of the food that makes it to the shelves in the US are produced by large corporations whose primary goal is not health, but profit. Many big food corporations contribute to the problem and create obesity purposefully by creating food addiction through addictive ingredients. The US is the richest country in the world so there is enough money to spend money on food, but this raises the question about whether or not food business should be regulated in order to prevent them from making addictive ingredients.
Food in the US can be looked at like a drug. Food companies spend a lot of time on research in labs to make food that encourages people to overeat and continue to eat junk food so that these companies can continue to make a profit. The problem with regulation is that our country is based on a free market system in which companies are thought to be able to operate unhindered by government involvement. There is also the freedom of the individual where individuals are encouraged to make their own decisions and are allowed to make decisions that harm themselves, such as eating junk food so long as they do not harm others in the process.
(Syllogism) Jim: I believe that there should be a government imposed tax on food because obesity is a problem, and the reason for it is people are buying junk food. This way big companies that manufacture these foods would not be able to make them available at the cheap prices that are causing people to by them and become obese.
(Value Statement) Jan: But don’t you believe that people should have the freedom to be obese?
Jan: Okay, that’s a good point. But our country is founded on freedom of choice. The food industry is enormous; it includes companies that produce healthy foods, junk foods, and some companies that produce both.
Jim: The problem is there is a science of addiction behind the food systems in our country. The foods are designed to be addictive and are designed to encourage people to overeat. So one individual is in a difficult situation, and when you have large companies marketing their products to consumers, products that are designed to be addictive, an individual does not seem to have much choice since there are predatory practices happening in the industry.
Jan: Is this any different than what happens in the Tobacco industry? Just as obese people with heart problems should not be able to sue fast food chains, and drinkers should not be able to sue bars or liquor companies, tobacco users should look inward and blame themselves for damages caused by the product.
Jim: That example you use actually helps me make my case. it is not as simple as this as tobacco companies have a long history of unethical business practices that seeks to get people addicted at an early age since studies have shown that if people start smoking before the age of 18 they are much more likely to become life long smokers who will continue to consume tobacco which will yield a profit for the tobacco companies. Plus, Tobacco companies ARE taxed since their products are so harmful.
Jan: But who will decide what foods constitute as being junk food? The food industry is enormous.
Jim: That is a practical problem that can be determined when the appropriate time comes. For the time being, I think the important question is should food companies be able to create unhealthy, addictive products that encourage people to overeat?
Jan: I guess I see your point here. You have a good point that the food companies are essentially acting the same as tobacco companies which have a dangerous product and as a result have government restrictions on how and where they can advertise and are also taxed. It goes deeper than this though. Children should be educated so that as adults they can make their own choices. Shouldn’t we start with educating children within our school systems?
Jim: But with an addictive product it is not so simple as decided. At a certain point a tobacco user becomes addicted to the substance and at this point the word choice does not really belong. I have had friends who have successfully quit smoking and they refer to it as the most difficult thing that they have ever done. I have read that quitting smoking is more difficult than quitting heroine. In the past tobacco companies have been found guilty of marketing to underage people, either in TV and movies and by making their product appear glamorous.
Jan: So perhaps, an approach similar to what is being done with tobacco companies would be a good approach to regulate the food industry like the tobacco and the alcohol industry. Tobacco companies notorious denied that their products were even harmful, going so far as having doctors testify before congress that there was nothing dangerous about their products. I also recall reading or hearing about tobacco companies putting additives in their products to become more addictive. Even if tobacco companies are no longer doing these things, shouldn’t they be liable for the damages that they caused in the present from past unethical business practices?
Jim: Like the food companies, tobacco companies have a long track record of proving themselves untrustworthy. It seems to me like there is a double standard. Because we regulate and tax and restrict advertising or alcohol and tabacco to minors simply because their products are harmful. I would argue that junk food is just as harmful as these products. I think the data out there, and the obesity rates, and heart diseases rates show that these products are just as harmful. So under this way of thinking if they are just as harmful as tobacco, they should be held to the same exact government standard as tobacco and should be taxed and regulated.
Jan: While I still think that is going a little to far, I see your point and think that it is a fair comparison.