According to former U.S. Surgeon General David Thatcher, the population of overweight youths in this country has nearly doubled in the past two decades. Obesity: A National Epidemic?

What do heart throb movie stars Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise have in common? How about hall-of-fame athletes Michael Jordan and Cal Ripkin Jr.? According to the federal government, all four of these famed individuals are overweight. In fact, by the feds’ definition, 61 percent of us are overweight or obese and, yep, you guessed it, the epidemic is now affecting the children.

According to former U.S. Surgeon General David Thatcher, the population of overweight youths in this country has nearly doubled in the past two decades. And, the battle of the bulge is apparently affecting everything from their health to their studies to even their ability to "fit-in." But have no fear. Members on Capitol Hill, state and local legislators, school officials and health administrators are coming to the rescue.

Last week, U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Health Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-MA) convened a hearing on child obesity. The subcommittee explored several options to establish a taxpayer-funded campaign to improve eating and exercise habits in the nation. We’re not joking. While some in Washington are focused on the War on Terrorism and our struggling economy, Kennedy (who should shed a few pounds himself) and other members of the committee are declaring a war on fat. And they’re prepared to spend millions — for the children, of course.

Philadelphia is already undergoing such a campaign to combat child obesity. The city council has set up the Comprehensive School Nutrition Policy Task Force to ""revolutionize the way kids, parents, teachers, administrators and support staff in every Philadelphia school think about food."

Several states and localities are also considering legislation to deal with the "crisis." Last year, the California legislature passed S.B. 19, banning the sale of soda and food that doesn’t meet arbitrary nutritional standards set by the state in elementary schools. S.B. 19 also limits the sale of soda in middle schools. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Martha Escutia (D-Whittier), has vowed to push for even more restrictions at all grade levels.

Starting next year, public schools in Texas will stop selling soda, candy and other junk food. According to the Associated Press, school districts in many other states have already outlawed the sale of soda and junk food and are now offering soy burgers and fruit juices in their place.

Trial lawyers are also hopping on the bandwagon. Class-action lawsuits are currently pending in Florida and New York contending that manufacturers of processed foods with little or no nutritional value have "misled the public."

So much for moderation. Extremism in defense of the children has officially reached new heights. It is only a matter of time before government officials realize their initiatives will not work. Once that happens, and the trial lawyers get rich (again), look out for even more draconian measures. The "fat tax" no longer sounds so far fetched, and affirmative action may soon mean that teachers offer extra credit to those students who finish their brussel sprouts at lunch.

May 30, 2002
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