Obesity laws could be in your future

Published 5:33 pm Monday, October 8, 2012

Here’s a headline you may soon hear as our healthcare costs continue to explode: “Take Your Health into Your Own Hands or the Government Will Do It For You!”
Actually that wouldn’t be a very big surprise, as America’s obesity rates are rising with cases of Adult Type II Diabetes being reported by doctors for kids aged 10 and younger. Rising healthcare costs for preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are now getting the attention of state and federal legislators.
We’ve already seen the mayor of New York City get laws passed that require all NYC restaurants to list the caloric content on their menus and outlaw sodas sold in cups larger than 16 ounces.
Do you really believe that the federal government isn’t paying attention? Of course they are, and it may not be long before we see laws or taxes to regulate our personal lives right down to what we can eat.
I certainly won’t be surprised to see a new “junk food” tax coming down the road, because as things begin to cost too much, people stop buying those items. For example, I just saw an ad for a carton of Marlboro cigarettes on sale for $46. Just the $46 cost of “killing” yourself with cigarettes should lower the number of U.S. smokers, don’t you think? So imagine the government going national with taxes on French fries or sodas making you think twice before buying junk food.
Listen, I know that people who don’t take care of themselves will ultimately cost the taxpayers – you and me – for their healthcare issues as they develop one or more of the top diseases of obesity – heart disease, cancer and diabetes – but unless there’s an incentive, besides being healthy, the plan won’t work.  People who want to eat junk food will do so, just like smokers who wish to smoke do so.
Hey, I have an idea. How about a tax credit for going to a gym or workout club, or for proving that you buy healthy foods at the grocery store with your receipts?  Rather than penalizing your behavior, the federal government can track and add the tax incentive back into your refund or apply it to any taxes you owe. Now that’s positive reinforcement, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like money.
Listen, I’m not the reincarnation of Steve Jobs, but I’ll bet someone is working on a behavior tracking idea just like this in his or her garage or basement right now. So in 10 years, when their stock IPO comes out, I can point to this article and say, I told you so.
Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert on issues of geriatrics and aging in private practice in Henderson and Polk counties.  He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available on Amazon.com and at the Polk County Senior Center. His podcasts can be heard weekly at www.seniorlifestyles.net. Contact him at (828) 696-9799 or by email at:  drron561@gmail.com.

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