Law as a Tool in “The War on Obesity”: Useful Interventions, Maybe, But, First, What's the Problem?



This article explores the effectiveness of legal interventions to promote healthier eating/drinking and exercise in responding to obesity. Undue emphasis on weight loss and prevention of excess gain have largely been failures and have fueled prejudice against fat people. A major challenge lies in shifting norms: away from stigmatization of the obese and towards more nutritious eating/drinking and increased activity with acceptance of bodies in all shapes and sizes. Part of the enormity of this challenge lies in the complex effects of law and its relationship with norms, including unintended consequences of regulation. To illustrate such complications, the paper examines two interventions and the actual effects that they have produced (or could under differing conditions): junk food taxes, particularly on SSBs (sugar sweetened beverages), and restriction of advertising to children, especially the ban in Quebec.