Time for a "War on Fat"
by Brian C. Bennett

Well, it's official, poor diet and lack of exercise causes more death than alcohol and drug use combined. Way more. Cigarette smoking is the only self-inflicted behavior that kills more people. The numbers are frightening: alcohol kills bout 150,000 per year, "illegal" drugs take out about 54,000, while being too fat kills 300,000. Clearly, in the time honored tradition of America, it is time to declare all out war on fat people and the industries that support their habits.

If you think the Constitution is a bar to jailing the obese, I can only tell you that the "it's my body" argument doesn't work for drug users, so it shouldn't be useful to the obese. In fact, using the drug war as our model of how to fight fat, consider the following:

While some may argue that being fat is merely another form of self-expression that should be protected by the First Amendment, save your breath. If people can't put drugs in themselves, they shouldn't be allowed to put fat in themselves either, on the grounds that it costs society money and death. Fat people are dropping off at the rate of 300,000 dead per year and a cost to society of over $177 billion annually. Compared to that, drug users are mere poseurs, costing a mere 54,000 dead and a measly $110 billion ($77 billion of which the ONDCP says is "lost wages"). Sounds like a no-brainer.

The Fourth Amendment will offer no protection to the obese as their doors are battered down by heavily armed representatives of the "Fat Enforcement Agency (FEA)" who can be assured of the power to inflict no-knock pre-dawn raids on the homes of those suspected of having pounds of sugary treats hidden in their cupboards. A simple anonymous tip to the FEA ought to be enough to convince a judge to issue a search warrant. Occaisionally, of course, the wrong house may be raided and a bulimic or anorexic may be shot here and there, but hell that's the cost of doing business.

The Fifth Amendment will offer no solace to the obese as their very appearance is testimony enough to lock them securely away in labor camps (prisons) where their caloric intake can be monitored and they can be forced to exercise. Companies with drug screening programs can easily be convinced to begin random cholesterol testing and pre-employment body mass index testing programs.

If it isn't considered "cruel and unusual" to jail drug users over their personal choices, the Eighth Amendment will surely be of no use to the fat.

While the Ninth Amendment may be misunderstood to infer that fat people can't have rights taken away from them, it offers no such protection to drug users. As a matter of the principle of "law by precedent" it should be no stretch to deny people the right to eat too much and spend too much time riding in a recliner.

Lest you think the Tenth Amendment offers some protection over what one chooses to do to oneself, may I remind you that we seem to ignore that one in our war on drugs, so we may certainly ignore it for the war on fat. If the right to be high isn't protected by the Tenth Amendment, surely there can be no logical argument posed that one has an inherent "right" to be dangerously fat.

Finally, consider the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees that all citizens are to be treated equally and have equal rights before the law. If we aren't allowing people to abuse themselves with "illegal drugs" then we certainly can't be allowing them to abuse themselves with fats and sugars, now can we? Clearly, our war on drugs has declared that every citizen is "property of U.S. Government," and therefore has no right of self-determination.

How many people die annually on our roads when a fat driver "under the influence" of fat and sugar is leaning down to retrieve a dropped double cheeseburger? How many people are turned away from hospital emergency rooms to accomodate the morbidly obese who have tumbled down a flight of stairs? How much more dependence on foreign oil is caused by overwight airplane passengers and drivers?

Lastly, let's consider the link between obesity and terrorism. As it turns out, if you buy the "wrong" kinds of foods, you may be supporting terrorism. You see that convenience store clerk, soft drink truck driver, fast food worker, snack cake baker, and thousands of other seemingly innocent persons in the business of supplying fat and sugar to the gullets of everyday Americans? How many of them are saving their wages and sending them to terrorist organizations around the world without you even caring? How many investment bankers are laundering money from the sales of fat and sugar?

Clearly we will also need a Fat Intelligence Agency, an Office of Fat Control Policy, and a program of Fat Abuse Resistance Education for school children to properly fight this new war. You're either with us or against us.

Written Mar 24, 2002

A version of this appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Mar 26, 2002.

truth: the Anti-drugwar More Opinion Pieces Analysis & Commentary