Don't let them eat cake?

Published 3:20 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

By Staff
Should restaurants be forced not to serve people deemed “too obese” to eat?
That's what a Mississippi legislator thinks, and he has proposed a bill that would ban restaurants from serving anyone who is obese according to criteria from the Mississippi Department of Health.
Aside from being one of the most asinine proposals ever written, Southaven, Miss., Rep. Ted Mayhall's bill is illegal and impossible to enforce.
Obesity is, pardon the pun, a big problem in Mississippi, and in all of the South for that matter. But to think you're going to solve the problem by discriminating against those who are overweight in some sort of legal tough love is short-sighted and narrow-minded.
Mayhall told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson that he didn't think his bill had much chance of passing, but he hopes the measure will bring attention to the matter.
Well, sure, it brings attention - it just makes Mississippi look stupid again. And that comes from someone who lived there for six years and still loves the state.
If you want to turn around the problem of obesity, how about starting with positive reinforcement? A number of companies are beginning to offer discounts on health insurance or other perks for employees who lose weight or engage in healthy activities. Brewton's own NDI Inc. has established such programs, and they are working, CEO Carol Gordy has said.
How about if the government offered tax breaks to companies that give discounts on health insurance or help employees pay for gym memberships?
How about finding a way to make health insurance more affordable, so that Americans can go to the doctor for preventative medicine and diet and fitness advice?
Mayhall is right about one thing - obesity is a problem that affects all of us, because the health effects people suffer can put a strain on state Medicare budgets and raise costs for everyone. But he certainly chose the absolute wrong way to shine a spotlight on the issue.
Mayhall's bill has called some attention, all right. It has made another Southern state look dumb and even made it seem OK to discriminate against people who aren't supermodel skinny.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876.