Macy’s Caves Over “Fat Shaming” But Maybe It Works; Shaming Helped Slash Smoking, and People May Want Gentle Reminders
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 23, 2019) – Macy’s has stopped offering dinner plates which reminded people about healthful portion size because some called them “fat shaming.”
But shaming smokers - making them feel, in their own words, like "social pariahs" - was tremendously effective in helping smokers do what most already wanted to do, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who played a major role in slashing smoking in the U.S., thereby saving millions of lives and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars in medical care costs.
While there may be no comparable data proving that similarly fat shaming people who are obese helps them to lose weight, if it worked to help people with a hard core addiction to a deadly and highly addictive drug like nicotine, it might likewise help people who absentmindedly pile more food on their plates than they really need or is healthful for them, suggests Banzhaf, whose legal action forced broadcasters to make hundreds of millions of dollars worth of broadcast time available free for antismoking messages.
The initial antismoking messages, which largely stressed the health dangers of smoking, were of only limited effectiveness. But when the messages switched to shaming smokers - such as Brooke Shields joking that cigarettes in her ears made her sexy and sophisticated - the messages were far more effective, especially among young smokers, notes Banzhaf.
Moreover, every "no smoking" sign in a public place was a not-too-subtle remainder that - rather than making people sexy, social, and sophisticated - smoking actually made people so stinky and smelly that other people shunned them.
A recent study concludes that the "total cost of chronic diseases due to obesity and overweight was $1.72 trillion-equivalent to 9.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)," although the CDC's estimate is lower. And a large part of those huge costs are borne by taxpayers in the form of higher taxes to pay for preventable medical expenses under Medicare, Medicaid, and other governmental programs, as well as bloated health insurance costs.
So anything which might help slash the prevalence and huge costs of obesity - which, unlike with smoking, are continuing to rise - might well be worth trying, argues Banzhaf.
He also notes that the fat shaming plates Macy's was selling were not being forced on anyone - as they would be if used by a restaurant. homeless kitchen, or school - but rather would have to be voluntarily purchased and used by people interested in being reminded of portion size in maintaining a healthful weight.
In that way it is similar to a man putting a picture of a fat person on his refrigerator or bathroom mirror to remind him of the importance of eating smaller portions at meals, Banzhaf maintains.
At a time when some companies are actually refusing to hire people who are obese and/or charging them far more for health insurance, making it possible for people to voluntarily buy and use reminders to watch their own portion size at mealtime seems much less extreme and maybe even effective, especially when the plates are manufactured by a health-minded company, he says.
Preventing people from purchasing, for their own voluntary use, a novelty humorous reminder not to overload their own plates at dinner, just because a small number of people who want to promote fatness might be offended, is just another example of political correctness run amok, only this time, instead of simply being foolish, it can actually cause death and disability, argues Banzhaf.