Jennifer Richardson, Business Contributor
Government policies that encourage the individual's’ health is not necessarily a bad thing, but the consequences of government involvement creates adverse consequences for businesses. California is the one of the most progressive states in the union. As such, the state legislature has passed numerous laws and has launched numerous campaigns that affect the individual's’ health. Some of California’s laws have inspired conservative and liberal states alike to institute their own health policies. The campaign against smoking tobacco products paid for by Tobacco Free California and the state government have negatively impacted tobacco businesses. I am not endorsing or opposing the sale and consumption of tobacco or unhealthy foods. It’s not my place nor the government’s place to concern themselves with what people choose to consume. It’s not only the tobacco or food businesses that are hurt. Label companies, packaging companies, advertising companies, and companies that sell and manufacture the ingredients are all impacted. In other words, it is each and every business that contributes to the end product that is hurt. State and federal policies, some of which are addressed below, affect the individual’s health although they were intended to be beneficial, have failed to adequately address the problem of obesity. These policies, however, also have the ability to negatively impact businesses.
California is not alone in its push for healthier options. The federal government has also been forcing its own policy agenda to encourage states to offer healthier options. According to US News former First Lady Michelle Obama lead the “‘Let's Move’ initiative (which encouraged children to be active), and in 2010 Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act to overhaul cafeteria food and snacks in the nation's schools.” The majority of schools receive state and or federal funds and, as a result, schools lack the power to act autonomously. Publicly funded schools are on a strict budget and can only allocate so much money for specific items. Specific items, such as textbooks, library books, computers, physical education equipment, and desks. During my time at San Leandro High School, there were times where the school could not afford paper, let alone healthy food. These policy changes instituted by Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act were met with disdain by both school administrators, parents and students. These changes were also met with disdain by businesses who provide the schools with food. The businesses had to adapt and change to make sure that their products met the new specifications of laws. The changes that businesses had to make have the ability to ruin businesses that are unable to meet these new requirements.
However, the laws created by both the federal and state governments to promote healthier food choices may not have been necessary. Companies have created campaigns such as Dove’s campaign For Real Beauty or Victoria Secret’s The Perfect Body campaign, which have encouraged people to be happy in the skin they’re in. These campaigns essentially negate all of the policies put in place. The policies are negated because these campaigns have taught society to see beyond the number on the scale. The social perception of being overweight and obese are no longer considered by the masses to be negative. A study conducted by the JAMA Network states that “[s]ocially acceptable body weight is increasing. If more individuals who are overweight or obese are satisfied with their weight, fewer might be motivated to lose unhealthy weight.” Less people are motivated to lose weight than they were a few years ago, and as a result people have learned to accept themselves as they are, which is an amazing accomplishment. The laws that governments have created are essentially undone by these campaigns. As society changes its perspective of body image, it has become socially acceptable to be overweight and obese. The Los Angeles Times reports that “[t]he proportion of American adults who were either overweight or obese has been growing steadily for decades, rising from about 53% a generation ago to roughly 66% more recently. But the share of these adults who had gone on a diet dropped during the same period [1988-2014].” The previous quote illustrates that policies put in place to curb obesity are ineffective and useless. People are no longer worried about losing weight and have stopped trying to as a result of societal acceptance. Society plays a larger and more effective role in the individual's life than the government. All the more reason to keep the government small.
In 2016 a proposed federal law would make it difficult for people to use Food Stamps at convenience stores. According to ABC 30 “the new rules proposed by the [USDA] would require retailers that accept SNAP benefits, formerly called Food Stamps, to provide more fresh and healthy options.” In Merced California, convenience store owners argue that consumers depend on their stores because they cannot travel to large supermarket chains because they do not have the resources to do so. ABC 30 quotes the USDA as saying, “‘It is disappointing to see some take a position against increasing healthier food options for our most vulnerable.’” The Merced Corner stores are not against healthier options, and to think that they are is ridiculous. Merced Corner stores are against the proposed plan because it is not an economically feasible plan for their businesses. The proposed law is still pending and is in the final rule stage of the decision making process.
People and governments alike tend to forget about details when proposing a new law that impacts the lives of the individual. They can see only the beneficial impact of the proposed law like a horse with blinders. They do not take into consideration all of the businesses’ needs. They are only thinking about the end result for the consumer and not how the law will affect businesses.
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