State with Highest Obesity Rate Passes ‘Anti-Bloomberg’ Bill

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Mississippi lawmakers passed legislation on Mar. 12, 2013 that prohibits any local jurisdiction from requiring the posting of nutrition information on restaurant menus or limiting portion sizes. The legislation is known as the “anti-Bloomberg bill” in reference to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial regulations to combat obesity.

The bill (SB 2687), expected to be signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on Mar. 18, 2013, prevents local jurisdictions from “banning, prohibiting, or otherwise restricting food at food service operations based upon the food’s nutrition information or upon the provision or nonprovision of consumer incentive items (toys).” The bill would also prevent the restriction of “sales, distribution, growing, raising, or serving of any food or beverage approved for sale by the USDA or other federal or state government agencies,” and disallow “food-based health disparities” as a criteria for allowing or prohibiting the sale of a food item. It already passed Mississippi’s Senate in a 50-1 vote, and it cleared the State House by a 92-26 vote. The legislation would not affect the federal regulation of nutrition labeling under existing federal law.

State Senator Tony Smith, who owns a chain of six restaurants in Mississippi called Stonewall’s BBQ, said in an op-ed for cnn.com: “The free market should determine what a business chooses to sell. If the market demands healthier choices, then business owners will meet the need… If we give government a little more control of our personal rights — where does it stop? The ‘anti-Bloomberg’ bill simply assures consumers freedom of choice on what food and what size soft drinks they want to buy, and which restaurants they want to patronize.”

“You know, Saturday Night Live couldn’t write this stuff,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in an interview with CBS, “How can somebody try and pass a law that deliberately says we can’t improve the lives of our citizens? It’s just farce. Nobody would believe it if you wrote it in the book. Go out in the street and ask anybody, would they roll back the smoking ban? Would they roll back getting lead paint out of classrooms? I don’t think any of these things would get rolled back. The fact of the matter is, in New York City, people live over two years longer than the average across America and over three years longer than they did when we came into office ten years ago. I’m happy I’m famous.”

According to an report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate of any state in the country (34.9%). It has topped the obesity rankings for six straight years. The World Health Organization reports that the United States has an average national obesity rate of 33.9%, making it the ninth most obese country in the world and the most obese “industrialized country” with second place New Zealand (26.5%) and third place Canada (23.1%) several percentage points behind.

A study in Health Affairs showed that in 2008 obesity-related medical costs totaled $147 billion a year (nearly 10 percent of total medical spending). The annual medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. The majority of the spending is generated from treating obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, according to Trust for America’s Health.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Adult Obesity Facts,” cdc.gov, Aug. 13, 2012

Colin Campbell, “Mayor Bloomberg Thinks Mississippi’s ‘Anti-Bloomberg Bill’ Is ‘Just Farce,'” politicker.com, Mar. 13, 2013

Eric A. Finkelstein, “Annual Medical Spending Attributable to Obesity: Payer- And Service-Specific Estimates,” Health Affairs, July 27, 2009 
Sarah Kliff, “Mississippi Comes to Defense of Large Sodas with ‘Anti-Bloomberg’ Bill,” washingtonpost.com, Mar. 12, 2013

Mary Beth Quick, “Mississippi Lawmakers Pushing ‘Anti-Bloomberg’ Bill That Prohibits Calorie Count Laws,” consumerist.com, Mar. 14, 2013

Kim Severson, “‘Anti-Bloomberg Bill’ in Mississippi Bars Local Restrictions on Food and Drink,” nytimes.com, Mar. 13, 2013

Tony Smith, “‘Anti-Bloomberg’ Bill Stops Overregulation,” cnn.com, Mar. 13, 2013

Trust for America’s Health, “Issue Brief: Analysis of Obesity Rates by State,” healthyamericans.org, Aug. 2012
Trust for America’s Health, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011,” healthyamericans.org, July 2011