Tuesday, 1 August, 2006

It’s For the Children

Posted in Politics, Social Comment, Tobacco at 1:56 pm by glpease

This article is, obliquely, about the anti-tobacco movement and their absurd smoke-screens. It may not, at first, appear that way, but it is, and you’ll have to read to the bottom to see how it plays out. But, here’s a hint: While they pummel us with fallacious studies about ETS, attempting to appeal to our parental instincts with their whiny and insidious “It’s for the children” rhetoric, a far greater threat to our kids’ futures is raising its head, and being almost completely ignored.

According to recent statistics, approximately 70% of the population of the US is somewhere between overweight and obese. This has, apparently, resulted in researchers and nutritional scientists looking into the causes of epidemic obesity, probably at great cost. Their conclusion? We, as a nation, eat too much, and don’t get enough exercise. I wonder how much money it cost to come up with that conclusion.

I’m blessed with a fairly high metabolic rate, and am pretty active. I walk, bike, fence, do martial arts. I eat like a football team, but am generally pretty good at keeping my weight almost where I’d like it to be. (Truthfully, I’d like to shed about 20 pounds that I picked up in the winter of 2000, and have apparently been nurturing since, but that’s another story.) I’m one of the lucky ones.

Of course, I know a few, in fact, probably about 70% of the people I know, who struggle with weight issues at some level. They try all the quick cures, from Atkins Diets and their derivatives, to the myriad weight loss drugs that are available at the local WalMart. Some have been somewhat successful, but most continue to find themselves riding an endless roller-coaster.

According to the researchers, the way to lose weight is “portion control.” In other words, to reduce weight, reduce your intake of food. It’s hard to imagine that it cost money to figure something like that out. I grew up with the understanding that if you burned more calories than you consumed, you’d lose weight. Conversely, add pounds by consuming more and burning fewer. Makes sense, really. Granted, it’s not quite so simple, and here is where diets typically fail. Reducing your intake alone does not result in a shedding of pounds. Unless activity level is sustained or increased, the body will tend to reduce it’s metabolic rates to conserve energy. A few pounds may be dropped, but they’ll come back when when the diet is stopped, and they’ll bring their friends with them. Portion control, alone, is probably not the answer.

On the other hand, exercise tends to, after a period of time, increase metabolic rates, resulting in a more efficient use of the calories we consume. It doesn’t happen overnight, though, and in the land if instant gratification, this is less than attractive. We’d rather take a pill, which is why the multi-billion dollar diet-drug industry continues to thrive; it is estimated that Americans spend between $30-50 billion per year on losing weight. Remember this number.

The truly troubling part of all this is that children seem to suffer the most from our increasing national mass. One in five children are currently overweight, and this number is growing. And, there’s a greater tendency for overweight kids to become overweight adults, and develop weight related health problems earlier in life.

Too many kids sit endlessly in front of video games and computers, eating super-sized meal-deals, never seeing the sun, and plump up like Thanksgiving turkeys. So, the current generation of kids is facing greater risk of cardio-vascular disease when they reach their 20s and 30s, and increased lifetime risk of premature death from coronary disease. We’re nurturing a generation of Augustus Gloops.

Here’s where the anti-tobacco movement comes under fire. While they’re busy spending billions of dollars rattling their cages to warn us of the perils of ETS, and the inevitable doom that will befall us from a single whiff of someone’s cigarette smoke as it ravages our bodies, all based on mythology and pseudo-science, our children, now spared this unspeakable horror, are facing the a far greater likelihood of serious health risks as they enter adulthood. The antis would have our attentions turned toward their agendae, whilst a silent killer lurks behind our kids, waiting for an opportunity to plunge a coronary catheter into their backs. “It’s for the Children,” the antis say, but if there was much truth in that statement, wouldn’t their efforts be better spent on something real? Well, yeah…

I’m not really a consipracy theory kind of guy. Like most thinking people, I often wonder what is really behind the machinations of governments and industries that claim to be operating in our best interest, but I don’t attribute the toil of the world to the clandestine efforts of the Illuminati, or anything like that. Rather, I think there’s something far simpler and more comprehensible at work; good old fashioned avarice.

People are making a great deal of money on our collective flab. Fast-food joints thrive on wallet-thinning, waist-thickening super-sizing, represented as a “good deal,” but really, just a way to extract a couple extra bucks from each customer. The diet pill industry is massive, with a few cents worth of ingredients effortlessly converted into tens of dollars worth of pills that are of limited effectiveness, at best, and potentially dangerous at worst. There are the Jenny Craigs and Weight Watchers, not to mention the fitness centers, video tapes, exercise machines sold on late-night TV, and on and on, all of whom prey on the overweight.

So, what about “The Children?” Obese kids, according to the research, grow up to be obese consumers, and that’s just what these industries need in order to continue to thrive. We’ll keep them from smoking cigarettes, but stuff them with cheeseburgers to keep the wheels of commerce turning, supported by the Legion of the Large.

Now, if I were a consipracy kind of guy, I’d be speculating on the fact that nicotine is known to be something of an appetite suppressant, and that people who quit smoking often turn to binge eating to satisfy their cravings, gaining weight in the process, and wondering just how to get rid of it…



  1. Allen H. said,

    Excellent post!! I agree whole heartedly with the sentiment that there are much deadlier killers out there than SHS… I hope that those who devote their lives to SHS studies and policies really ask themselves if they are using their abilities in the most effective way to help the nation as a whole.

    An example of idiocity was Carmona’s huge SHS report right before he left office. The way I see it, is he could shove out this huge villifying piece of drivel (read the research he quotes for those who don’t believe me), and jump ship. He’ll be remembered in glorifying terms for those who are raving anti’s, and will be considered “progressive”… but in reality, will he help anyone? No. Because SHS is not the killer they make it out to be. They’re putting their focus in the wrong places. They could be saving millons by lobbying for use of DDT in Africa to control Malaria- where a serious difference could easily be made… but they’re here complaining about SHS… arguably a very weak killer at best (if at all). Never mind that everyone’s still getting lung-cancer and hardly anyone is smoking anymore! Ineresting… but lets ignore it… we have children to save from the perils of smoke!

    BTW, I thought the day that everyone got fat (look at the change in BMI index numbers) was an interesting one. They cook the books on this a bit as well. 😉

    A healthy skepticism is needed in almost all walks of life I’m beginning to find… especially when it comes to “it’s for your own good.” [Yeah, thanks Mr. Politician…]

    Cheers, Greg!! Awesome post!!

  2. Steven Ciesicki said,

    Very, very true. Though, I am a conspiracy theorist sort of guy. The Illuminati , Masons, etc… were, and are, still very real. But do these theories actually rule out avarice as a motive? No. Greed has always been the driving force behind most, if not all, of the evils in the world. Totalitarian governments and regimes have always enjoyed the fruits of others’ labor.

    In additon, I believe that there are two other essential reasons why tobacco is being targeted in our times.

    First, tobacco is an essential American institution, which has, in fact, been the historical springboard for the vibrancy of our economy. When Europe couldn’t satisfy it’s ravenous appetite for tobacco, America was busy trying to supply the demand. I think that this attack on tobacco (along with God, firearms, and liquor) is an essential attack on our American heritage. Remember that, supposedly, America is at the root of all of the world’s problems, since we spread our corrupt and diseased cultural habits to the unsuspecting peoples of the world. The Eurocentric (read socialistic) viewpoint is now touted as the “enlightened” mode of thought. American sports are plebian and droll, whilst soccer is a sophisticated game. This is not to imply that there’s anything essentially wrong with European traditions, but downgrading our own in a mad rush to embrace them is a grave disservice to our heritage.

    Right thinking politicians and public institutions should be venerating and thanking tobacco for the great contributions it has made to our culture and our economy. How wonderful it would be if tobacco would again be celebrated in our arts and in our muesums.

    The second reason is this: Communist governments always seek to control every aspect of it’s population’s lives. Every action or thought, from the trivial and mundane to the most sublime, is monitored and dictated. This is due to the fact that a population which is acclimated to coercive force in even the most insignificant of matters is far easier to control in the more important arenas. A person who is accustomed to being controlled in his choice of toilet paper doesn’t find the prospect of a coerced religion, philosophy, or polical bent very unusual.

    This issue runs far beyond mere tobacco. We are at a pivitol point in our history.

  3. Tim Kinstler said,

    So true Greg, so true. SHS has never been the menace it’s made out to be. I wish folks would put more effort in trying to enjoy themselves rather forcing others into some sort of monastic lifestyle. Personally I don’t even worry that much about obesity in the USA. Why worry, be happy. As far as this being some sort of evil plan by assorted Communists, that’s a crock. There are plenty of Capitalist governments that are rife with controls on personal behavior. It seems that humanity has the need to tell others how to live their lives built into it.

  4. Ben Rich said,

    Outstanding article. I have always believed the attacks against tobacco have been more about controlling people than it has been about health. I personally believe tobacco (nicotine) in moderate amounts is healthy; shoot, I remember 25 years ago going through the USAF’s flight survival program (a three month fun time on what to do and how to do it after surviving a shoot-down in a hostile territory, generally modeled on eastern Europe). Tobacco, in either chewing, pipe, or cigar form, was a mandatory part of one’s survival kit. The benefits of nicotine were extolled to us students. It deadened hunger and pain and was a means of providing a boost to one’s energy. Tobacco juice could be used as an insect repellant and as a means of altering one’s scent in the event dogs were being used to hunt the shoot-down victim. Raw (and pure) tobacco packed into a festering wound served as a means of fighting infection. Tea made from boiled tobacco served as a an emetic and killed parasites picked up from drinking bad water. I remember one instructor, who had actually escaped and evaded the North Vietnamese for more than six weeks after being shot down over North Vietnam, telling us that he doubted he would have made it without the six cigars he had in his kit at the time of his shootdown. And I also agree completely with what Steven Siesicki wrote – this is about a lot more than just tobacco.

  5. David Charles said,

    Living in NYC, I try to point-out to complainers how much engine exhaust they’re sucking down every day. Cars, trucks, and busses spew particulate petroleum and soot by the cubic ton, but everyone gets worked up about burning leaves.

    That said, there is a lot of extra crap processed into commerical cigarettes that probably isn’t good for anyone. Lucky we pipers don’t have that problem.

  6. John McCloud said,

    OH, ye dogged victims of inexhorable fate…..
    you’re just beginning to see
    whilst you’re taxed
    PAST your knees (both of ’em)
    and you’ve not revolted
    It’s way too late!

    a GM of GM once said, tobacco companies
    YOU just don’t figure it out
    WE created the catalyic converter
    So pollution is not found out
    And you’re way too late.

    OH, ye dogged victims of inexhorable fate
    (to be continued for the revolution)

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