Let them eat fat! (but not trans fat)

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Bold move or Nanny Culture? New York City's Health Department wants to ban artificial or so-called trans fats from use by NYC restaurants and other "food service establishments." All those guys on street corners with hot dog and bagel standards better give their ingredients another look-see.

After a yearlong promotional campaign to try to "educate" New Yorkers about trans fats' deleterious impact on health, the city's restaurants are still serving about as much trans fat to customers as they were before the campaign began.

Yes, trans fats are blamed for and linked to all sorts of nasty conditions from heart disease, to obesity, to diabetes. But should cities be in the business of regulating what residents can and cannot eat? In typical eloquently opinionated New York style, the New York Sun quoted one conservative spokesman as follows:

" 'When is Nurse Bloomberg planning to let us fill up our own plates?' a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Walter Olson, said. Saying that the mayor was treating New Yorkers 'like tiny, tiny children,' he called the proposed trans fat ban a 'gross infringement on the rights of restaurants and customers to cut their own deals.' "

Gross infringement? Let's not go there. Besides, what about all those taxes city denizens must pay for healthcare for people who can't afford their own? That should get conservatives motivated to support "Nurse Bloomberg." After all, they hate higher taxes.

I say, let New Yorkers "eat fat" but require those who voluntarily self-destruct to pay for the cleanup costs. After all, health and life insurance companies charge smokers higher premiums (or refuse to cover them.) Why not the same with trans fats, if indeed they add as large a burden to the healthcare system? But then, we'd have heart attack victims' legatees suing hot dog manufacturers, wouldn't we?

New York may become the first major city to ban trans fats from restaurants, but it won't be the last. Chicago is considering limiting its use. Three years ago, Denmark became the first nation to restrict the sale of foods containing these artificial fats.