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July 30, 2008

Food Police Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

Fast_food_restaurants I can just see the new headlines: "LA's food police busted crime boss Ronny Mac's for his hamburger- and French-fry-selling racket." Like all the other coercive campaigns, some people in LA are wielding their power to ban fast-food restaurants from poorer neighborhoods. 

Here's a couple of ideas why this isn't a good idea, but feel free to list more.

1. Fast-food restaurants provide jobs for unskilled laborers. Those restaurants also provide upcoming businesspeople a chance to own their own business. 
2. As for draconian campaigns and campaigners, like Prohibition supporters or current-day tobacco thugs do-gooders, the bans they strive for just drive consumption underground. 

This article reminds me anew that freedom is a precarious thing.

(Image © Getty Images)

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No, this isn't the right approach to the real problem of obesity among the poor (Huckabee's work in AR probably is). But re: #2 -- I'm very happy I can now breathe in public places, from restaurants to malls, and not have to shield my kids from the dirty air smokers create. I guess I'm a thug! ( :

Kim Moreland

The better answer was to have a smoking and non-smoking section. Perhaps a bit of pressure for better ventilization fans to keep icky smoke out of non-smoking area too.

Steve (SBK)

More effective draconian measures would be to ban internal combustion engines (thus, cars) and television, and enforce compulsory phys.ed. attendance for kids in school, and some fitness classes for adults out of school.
Exercise will do much more than a small diet change.
Sure, these measures sound completely unreasonable... but we're doing it for the sake of the people. We know best. Only Fat Cat Capitalists live such lazy, sedentary lifestyles.

Well, either enforce exercise or freeganism. Now THAT is freedom. *wink*


Except, while smokers stay in the smoking section, their smoke drifts to the non-smoking section. I've never seen that not the case.

Now, what we really need is a designated soundproof room for diners insisting on yammering on their cell phones. ( :

Steve (SBK)

"Except, while smokers stay in the smoking section, their smoke drifts to the non-smoking section. I've never seen that not the case."

Perhaps, since we live in the space-age, we could have restaurants incorporate some sort of air-lock system dividing the smoking/non-smoking sections... and robot waiters in the smoking section so they don't get lung-cancer.

dennis babish

We should have a government run eating program. Everyone would be required to join and the government would determine what the meals were each day and we would go to designated centers to pick up our food.
Restaurants, grocery stores, and stores like 7-11s would be banned. Movie houses could only serve government sanctioned foods.
Of course to pay for all of this our income taxes would have a food tax added to it say around 30%.
Then everyone would become lean mean eating machines or at least mean.
We would solve the hunger problem, obesity problem, and extra money problem.
Wow that's right up there with national health care.
Why didn't Hillary think of that? She would be the candidate of choice.
Then again maybe not.


Having eaten at the Capitol's cafeteria, Dennis, I don't think so! ( :

Chris Clukey

Why does this effort remind me so much of the passage in "1984" where Winston Smith is doing calisthenics and the instructor barks at him through the two way TV because he isn't exercising hard enough?

Chris Clukey

CLH, I certainly wouldn't call you a thug, but I have yet to see anyone put forth a convincing argument that the government should be able to tell a business owner what legal products can be consumed on his or her property. I don't see how giving government such authority is much different from the abuses approved in the Kelo decision.

Clear air is great. Property rights and free markets are better, and bring clear air with them to many eateries. Most of the restaurants in my county were smoke-free years before Illinois passed a draconian public smoking law.

Jason Taylor

The real problem of obesity among the poor? My word!
In all the descriptions of the horrors of poverty in the world somehow I don't think obesity rates high.
The idea that the fact that poor people are fat is a major problem points more to the real problem of the hyperchondria of the rich then the problem of obesity among the poor. Many would kill to live in a country where the poor are fat.


Jason, sorry, my brief comment fails to show my overall views on all those issues. You seem to forget I'm the resident bleeding heart here too (see bios), so I'm with you. And I (who am faaaaar from rich or elite, but rather empathize with the poor of America for various reasons) also cannot stand how, when I go to the grocery store, the junk food is at times more affordable than the good, healthy food I prefer, but don't always have time to prepare -- but make the time anyway. So I can imagine the fallback among inner-city single moms working 2 to 3 jobs -- their fallback to fattening convenience foods.

The global poor are closer to my own family in Thailand by virtue of geography, though thankfully, not their own situation (not all of them anyway). So I know about that.

But in America -- yes, actually, obesity is a problem among the poor. This isn't a hypochondria problem, nor a cosmetic one. It's a real health problem. However, Kim's point stands: food police are not the answer to that problem.

Just one study:

And then to put a picture of the problem:
"OLD GREENWICH, CONN. -- A child growing up in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood has easy access to fast-food restaurants and "convenience" stores selling poor-quality processed foods, but her parents may have to walk 10 or 20 blocks to fund a supermarket that stocks fresh produce.

"Proximity and prevalence of these convenience stores, known as bodegas in Spanish, turn out to be an accurate predictor of body weight and waist-to-hip ratio in East Harlem children, according to Dr. Maida P. Galvez of the center for children's environmental health and disease prevention research ..."

So it isn't turning up a nose at the poor; it's wanting those in the city to have the same convenience we take for granted in the 'burbs: a myriad of stores w/ produce and meat a mere mile from home.


Chris, yes, I prefer a market-driven smoking ban (customers saying 'no thanks; I'll dine elsewhere). But on that issue, laws did trickle down from the cultural preference. Once again, an article I've referenced a few times (7th paragraph):

Government regs aren't the answer, but some come about as a result of cultural preference -- like smoking bans.

Kim Moreland

About the state of obesity among poor people--a friend of mine was an inner city school teacher. Years ago she said most of her students came from disordered homes. The students brought candy and junk food to school because their parent(s) wouldn't cook for them.

Despite our best intensions, there is a culture in our inner cities in which most of us, no matter how low our income, don't understand and can't relate.

As for stores with lots of good & wholesome food--crime has driven them out of the neighborhood. Address the crime problem, and the stores will move back into the area.


CLH, interesting argument, however I don't believe the culture is quite there yet. There is a lot of revolt against smoking bans.

for example www.smokechoke.com is a guide to establishments in Ohio that are ignoring the ban and allowing their patron to smoke if they wish.
And there's also this bit of information:
The Toledo-Lucas County health department alone has spent $40,000 hunting down violators, while banking just $630 in fines.
from here: http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/news/local/18326849.html

I don't believe the general public is up for a smoking ban quite yet...

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