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The fact is that we dont know enough about human eating behaviour and effects to know how to intervene to prevent its worst effects. Until we obtain more information any intervention beyond information campaigns cannot be justified. ...

Hundreds Hats Cheap

Thanks so much for this! I have not been this moved by a post for quite some time! You have got it, whatever that means in blogging. Well, You are definitely someone that has something to say that people need to hear. Keep up the outstanding work. Keep on inspiring the people!There is no way that this product is any more harmful than cigarettes and as long as the government has allowed me to continue to smoke at my own risk then I should have the right to choose this alternative

Eric Rasmusen

I don't know the facts, which could matter here. How many of the people who buy giant non-diet drinks are fat? 90%? 5%? Why do people buy giant sweet drinks in the first place?

There is a "saving the obese from themselves" argument to be considered. Suppose we have a fat man who drinks pop even though he knows he will regret it a year from now (or even tomorrow). Perhaps his future self should be protected from his present self. Judge Posner has discussed this multiple-selves approach (Legal Theory, 1997), and it could apply here.


Education is the way to go, absolutely. But you'll find it doesn't work. People know cigarettes are bad, but they still smoke. You could call them cancer sticks, have a big scary skull on the pack, and people would jump for that brand. This is despite the fact that they know very well that they are bed, and why.

So this issue is not, in itself, knowledge. Knowing something is bad doesn't change their actual habits, so what would? Education. Not of obesity, but of the self. It gets to the root of the problem instead of trying to superficially cover it up.


I don't have a problem with Mayor Bloomberg's proposal, but it just isn't gonna happen.

Johan Sundström

It is a telling observation about how deep the programming about what causes obesity goes, that, in a list written by a luminary that both knows and states that sugared drink consumption trumps all other factors in effect in the US, it is the FOURTH item on the list, preceded and followed by stigmatizing blame-centric explanations like "gluttony" and "lack of self-discipline".


The comparison between government influence over tobacco and soda is not apt.

For one, people who smoke are 1,500% to 3,000% more likely to get lung cancer. People who drink one soda a day are only 27% more likely to be obese. That's several orders of magnitude lower of an effect. And while the former is completely causal, the latter is not; while there is some evidence that soda causes obesity, those who drink soda are also more likely to have poor eating habits; not all of that 27% increase is due to drinking soda alone.

Additionally, while very few things cause lung cancer that we can control our consumption of (basically, tobacco smoke) a multitude of things cause obesity. Soda is certainly one of the larger ones, but there are so many culprits that it would be impossible to control all of them; Denmark taxes butter. On an anecdotal note, I have 3 obese friends and all of them have a serious soda habit; and they have all switched to diet soda long ago, and yet remain as obese as always. Soda addiction is often a symptom of poor eating habits and not the sole cause of obesity. Remove soda, and the obese will simply move onto something else sugary.

Furthermore, lung cancer is more serious than obesity. Perhaps the medical costs don't hold that up- lung cancer victims die so much earlier they actually save money on healthcare. But ask a person if they'd rather be obese or have lung cancer, and see how many say "lung cancer." If we're talking about "saving people from themselves," people are far more likely to welcome being saved from lung cancer than obesity.

People don't want to be rescued from soda. Obesity isn't that likely from drinking soda. Obesity is caused by so many other things beside soda. And for many, obesity isn't that bad. Soda is not the new tobacco.

ellen diamond

Dear Judge Posner (or Dickie, as I knew you 60+ yrs ago): I agree with your points and your conclusion that Mayor Bloomberg's action may raise the discourse about this deceptively benign-sounding issue a notch higher. But knowing this Mayor's bent towards megalomania as only a New Yorker, especially one currently engaged in a fight to save my neighborhood from his questionable intrusiveness, can, I've seen his willingness to bend or break any rule standing between him and what he wants. I believe his lust for power puts any initiative involving his control over citizens' lives in a highly suspect light.
I think the degree to which one supports an issue like this depends greatly on how one is personally affected by it. In the long run, just as with smoking, it will be the people who give any such policy its backbone.

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Sugar is all carbohidrates. The main problem is to no cequilibrate the diet, not to eat sugar..

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Thanks for the post. I'll keep coming!

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Thank you for this extremely brilliant blog. You provide the lot of useful and interesting information in this blog post like I agree with Becker that one must be hesitant to recommend governmental intervention in personal choice. Government lacks good information about consumer preferences in a country as vast and diverse as the United States, and government is buffetted by interest groups. Thanks for sharing.

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Harold Helbock MD

Has anyone noticed that the obesity epidemic began when people stopped smoking? Was this an unintended consequence of the anti smoking campaign? I noticed in Europe that people (other than American tourists) are not generally obese. They also smoke a lot more. So when we take away happy food in addition to tobacco then we will have a suicide epidemic, or drug use will rise or? Maybe the gov ought to go on a long break.


I was surprised that my BMI wasn't hieghr than 22.6 since muscle weighs more than fat! LOL Even though my BMI is in the normal range, I need to get back to my exercise regiment. I have been neglectful the last couple of weeks. When I don't exercise regularly I tend to snack more on non-healthy foods. I believe the 18.5 is a typo and should be 19.5 since the overweight range is 5 points then the normal should be 19.5 making it a 5 point range making the underweight of 19.5 correct.Gino

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At 20.9 I seem to be within the norm. First thing nomarl about me I've ever heard of. Question: If Normal weight is between 18.5 BMI and 24.9 BMI why is anything below 19.5 considered under weight? shouldn't that be anything under 18.5? Or perhaps nomarl weight is between 19.5-24.9 BMI rather than 18.5-24.9 BMI?Ain't I picky? Aren't you glad you know me?? Huh? Huh?

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