Every morning on my way to work I stop off at a mini-mart for coffee, maybe a doughnut, and sometimes I also fill up the car. I have no idea how many other Americans do the same thing every morning on their way to work, but it must number somewhere in the millions. Between gasoline,coffee and junk food, I probably put fifty bucks into the cash register of this mini-mart every week. Multiply fifty bucks by, let’s say 30 million commuters,that’s around $1.2 billion every week, okay? The real number is probably much higher than that.
When I get on line to pay for my coffee, I notice that probably one out of every two customers in front of me buys at least one, five-dollar lottery ticket, one out of every three buys a pack of nine-dollar smokes, and usually two out of three buys some kind of junk food as well. And when I say ‘junk’ food, I’m talking about every ingestible product in the mini-mart with the exception of a few oranges which I have never seen anyone actually buy.
For all the talk about healthy eating, fresh foods, low-carb diets and so forth and so on, Americans are captives of the processed food industry. There is no other advanced country whose population consumes so much crap. How do I know this? Because the United States ranks at the top of the heap of all advanced countries when it comes to being fat. The current obesity rate in the United States is nearly 40%, which is twice the rate for the OECD as a whole. The U.S. obesity rate is four times as high as Switzerland, ten(!) times as high as Japan. And since our poverty rate is somewhere around 12%, this means that most of our obese population consists of the same men and women who stand in front of me on the mini-mart line.
Now if you follow the discussion about gun violence,you have certainly heard that our gun-violence rate is the highest in the OECD. Our friend David Hemenway has published comparisons between the U.S. gun-violence rate and other ‘advanced’ countries,finding that gun violence in the United States is 7 times higher than anywhere else. To put it in dollars and cents, we suffer from 35,000 gun deaths and rack up at least $8 billion in direct medical expenses every year.
Let me break it to you gently, okay? The numbers on the cost of U.S. gun violence are peanuts compared to what it costs us to walk around with so much fat. In 2008, the CDC estimated the medical costs incurred for treating conditions directly caused by obesity to be $147 billion, almost 20 times more than what we spend on injuries caused by guns.And while Gun-control Nation has recently sent out an alarm that deaths from guns in 2018 will exceed deaths which occur when we smack up our cars, deaths from obesity have been exceeding automobile deaths for years.
Anyone who believes that gun violence is a worse ‘epidemic’than obesity either needs to have their head examined, or their waistline measured, or both. On the other hand, both obesity and gun violence share one,common thread; namely, both are caused by the ability of consumers to purchase legal products whose threats to health are barely controlled. There isn’t a single kid in the United States whose school doesn’t have a ‘healthy eating’course in the curriculum. Know how much difference this has made to obesity? No difference. Now we have a group of dedicated, gun-violence researchers who have been given money to develop online courses on gun safety that can be used in public schools. Good luck, guys.
Want to get rid of obesity? Get rid of processed foods. Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of – guess what?