nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Vending Machines Sell Junk, But Vending Not Related To Childhood Obesity

The accepted wisdom is that restricting access to vending machines can lower obesity.  An empirical study says, "No."

I can't count the number of articles over the last ten years that have suggested a relationship between obesity and consumption soft drinks and vending machine food.  "If only", these articles suggest, "we restrict access and tax the purchase" it will lower obesity in children.  The first study to look at comparing two nationwide data sets found no such effect..."as currently practiced."

The bizarre aspect of the authors report is the suggestion that since restrictions and taxes don't work, we should try even more harsh restrictions and taxes.

Yes, this food is not good as a staple of anyone's diet.  But suggesting more of the same failed policy is not my first thought.  It sounds like what the education community has been telling us for decades;  we quadruple our investment in education, get even worse results, and the education experts say the answer is even more money.

But, there's a philosophical underpinning here.  In a free society, how far can the public health community and the government go in "guiding" our choice through negative incentives?  Somewhere along the way, as somebody said, "freedom includes the freedom to choose badly."  Otherwise it's not freedom, but somebody else's choice for us.

On the other hand, we pay the price for those people who choose badly, in high health care costs, etc.  Can't we say that "poor choice" harms us all?  Smoking, motorcycle helmets, and obesity--all these are tied into to how much responsible behavior we can expect of others.

Answer those questions and you've categorized yourself as a Lefty or a Righty.

Addressing obesity with prohibitions and restrictions just forces the underlying motivation to seek another outlet, another way to overeat.  Wouldn't it be better to address the root cause?  What do you think the root cause is?

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