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The obesity epidemic in the US is also affecting the budget - and the authorities have decided to act

34% of adults are overweight; This year, 140 bills were submitted with the aim of preventing obesity - inspired by the fight against smoking

Natan Gutman, reporter for "Haaretz" in the USA and in collaboration with Walla News

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Until recently, the obesity epidemic in the US was considered a private matter between the person and the scales, or at most between him and his personal doctor. Although it has been proven that obesity significantly increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and vascular disease, the US preferred not to act on the matter. But now the American authorities have decided to enter the picture, after it became clear that the obesity epidemic afflicting the American nation is beginning to affect the pockets of the states as well.

34% of adult Americans are overweight and about 30% - about 59 million people - are overweight at a level that is a health hazard. In the last three decades, American society has been undergoing a process of obesity, which is not only the domain of adults but also of children and youth: 15% of 19-6 year olds are overweight - three times the rate of obese children in the US two decades ago.

According to the federal government's estimate, every year the oils cost about 117 billion dollars to the coffers of private and public health services, due to the higher probability that they will occur. The public implication is that the public health services provided to the elderly and those with low income by the state suffer from a budget deficit, which limits the benefits provided. On the private level, this means that the private health insurances raise the premiums every year to deal with the rising costs.

Recently, legislative actions have been taken - at the state and federal level - designed to fight obesity. The model that stands before the eyes of the legislators is the fight against smoking that was waged in the 90s. From the fight it became clear that a concentrated effort in the field of education, taxation and legislation can change attitudes among the public and reduce the number of citizens who take medical risks.

The variety of actions taken in the war against obesity is great. The moderate proposals, currently being discussed in about a dozen states in the US, call for legislation that would require fast food chains to publish on the menu the caloric value of each dish and the percentage of fat and sugar in it.

Other countries direct their actions to the younger generation. About 25 countries are considering banning the introduction of soft drink and candy vending machines into schools. This measure has already been successfully tried in Arkansas and Texas. There are also more extreme bills, such as the one being debated in the New York State Legislature, which would impose a special tax on fatty foods, as well as on leisure activities related to idleness - movie ticket purchases, DVD rentals and video games. The revenue from these taxes should be used for nutrition and physical activity programs for the youth. A total of 140 bills were submitted this year in the various countries in order to prevent obesity. Last year, for comparison, 72 bills were submitted on this issue.

Not everyone is happy with the wave of anti-obesity legislation. The fast food manufacturers and the restaurant chains claim that the legislation is moving towards a real violation of their right to livelihood and freedom of occupation. According to them, a person has the right to choose his lifestyle, and if this lifestyle includes eating fatty foods, then this must be respected.

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