NEWS

  /  

December 10, 2006

No trans fats in New York

Along with smoking, New York City has now banned trans fats. Within the context of the greater fear of rising obesity in the U.S., this brings up an interesting discussion regarding the regulation of dangerous practices versus individual freedom. It is one thing to require clear and even obtrusive warning labels detailing the dangers of specific practices and substances. It is, however, a completely different thing to actually ban the substance. Doing so makes a decision for a consumer rather than simply educating them. Of course, this can be justified for certain substances, namely those that are acutely and severely dangerous (those in favor of individual freedom wouldn't necessarily favor lifting restrictions on access to nuclear and biological materials of this sort). But the debate has now turned to substances that are dangerous only in prolonged usage. A single meal filled with trans fat won't kill you unless it is part of a complete lifestyle choice. I'm completely in favor of requiring the presence of nutrition information on McDonald's menus, but less comfortable banning trans fats in general.