The Problem Isn't That You're Unhealthy; It's That You're Ugly!

Dateline: New York.
A can of Coke could soon cost New Yorkers more than just calories.

Gov. Paterson, as part of a $121 billion budget to be unveiled Tuesday, will propose an "obesity tax" of about 15% on nondiet drinks.

This means a Diet Coke might sell for a $1 - even as the same size bottle of its calorie-rich alter ego would go for $1.15.

…The so-called obesity tax would generate an estimated $404 million a year. Milk, juice, diet soda and bottled water would be exempt from the tax.

…Public health advocates welcomed news of the tax, saying it would help the fight against childhood obesity.
Essentially, this is just another vice tax, like the ones many states have enacted against cigarettes and/or booze. There are legitimate arguments for and against vice taxes; my primary issue with them is their arbitrariness. Why a vice tax on smoking, but not on truck nuts, which foul the atmosphere at least as much as second-hand smoke?

Anyway, the point is that the tax itself, in principle, doesn't get my hackles up any more than any vice tax, for the same reasons. What I've got a problem with is calling it an "obesity tax."

Like my old acquaintance, the McDonald's franchisee, who drank regular soda like it was going out of style, there are plenty of people who routinely drink regular soda but aren't obese and never will be, by virtue of some magical combination of genetics, body chemistry, and/or disease that goes undiagnosed because someone who eats "too much bad stuff" and gets fat is a horrible glutton who is to be deeply pitied in need of an intervention and medical attention immediately, but someone who eats "too much bad stuff" and stays thin is a lucky so-and-so who is to be deeply envied and presumed healthy.

Regular soda isn't good for anyone. It's not even neutral. It's high-sodium, high-sugar shit that's bad for anyone who drinks a lot of it, whether they gain weight or not.

So why is this even being called an "obesity tax," when it's being levied on a product that isn't good for anyone? Wouldn't a better term be a "health tax," since everyone stands to benefit from lowering or eradicating their consumption of regular soda?

Quite evidently so—but we have now so inextricably linked weight with health (or, more accurately, fat with unhealthy) that anything merely healthful is "anti-obesity."

Resultingly, fat people are demonized, thin-but-unhealthy people are discouraged from thinking about whether regular soda is something they should cut out of their diets for any reason other than it now costs too much thanks to those damn fatties, and the simplistic associations between fat/unhealthy and thin/healthy are reinforced yet again.

And on and on the self-reinforcing cycle goes.

A cycle, I might add, that should be so glaringly apparent to any thinking person at this point it's difficult to believe there's anyone still arguing with a straight face this shit is about health and not about the still perfectly acceptable revulsion with bodies that have the unmitigated gall to be less than perfect.

[Via Memeorandum.]

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