Laws Won't Do Much to Stop Obesity in Kids

A September 22, 2005 editorial in the Lincoln Journal Star echoes skepticism voiced on ACSH's HealthFactsAndFears blog about California's anti-fat legislation:

California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed into law bills aimed at (naturally) "terminating" childhood obesity. That legislation, too, focuses on school nutrition, including vending machines.

Unfortunately, Judith S. Stern of the American Council on Science and Health, while praising the concern shown by Schwarzenegger and the California state senators for children's health, says it is doubtful the laws will really help.

"Not one of the bills addresses the elephant in the room -- consumption of excess calories," Stern said. The bills still allow the sale of milk -- and juice-based products, water, and sports drinks. "And that's the problem," she said. Even though juice-based drinks are perceived to be more healthful than sodas, she said, "that's not necessarily true" when it comes to calorie intake.

Childhood obesity became political fair game partly because people want to quickly solve perplexing problems, and vote-seeking legislators are quick to respond.

However, in the flurry of news reports on all sides of the question of childhood obesity, a thread of logic seems to be emerging: Personal responsibility.

Even Morgan Spurlock, the award-winning filmmaker who wrote, directed, and starred in Super Size Me, which slammed McDonald's fast-food menu, grudgingly acknowledges this logic. "We can't negate personal responsibility," he said while speaking recently at Nebraska Wesleyan University.