The other day, I was having one of those fruitless discussions about gun control with a very stubborn person who, as a counter argument, raised the question, “If you’re going to make guns illegal because they kill people, why not make fast food illegal too?” My first thought was that it was a ludicrous thing to say. Fast food is food. It’s not designed to hurt people like guns are. But after giving it a moment to marinate, both he and I were surprised to find out that ultimately, I agreed with his proposition; Fast should should be illegal.
Fast food might not have a whole lot in common with guns, but you know what it does share a huge number of qualities with? I’ll give you a couple hints:
- Both things make you feel great for a short period of time before making you feel far worse than you did before.
- Both are full of chemicals that were never designed to be inside your body
- Both are addictive
- Both are correlated with socioeconomic class
- Both are especially damaging to children
- Both create negative feedback loops than can send a person’s life into a downward spiral.
- Both wreak havoc on our healthcare system.
If you guessed drugs, you are correct!
The more you think about it, the harder it is to escape the conclusion: fast food is a drug. And it’s a powerful one at that, considering over 25% of people eat it every day. Sort of reminds me of that Keanu Reeves movie. And yet for some reason, this is a realization that we Americans have yet to come to. Why is fast food, which exists purely to enable its addicts (if you will), still legal? Better yet, why was it ever legal? Why is it not regulated and controlled? It’s like we willingly ignore all the facts that are there under our noses.
The answer comes down to one word: food.
Fast food is still food
Despite a wealth of drawbacks, the fact remains that fast food is still considered food. You’d certainly survive longer on a desert island with a McDonalds hamburger than you would with a pack of cigarettes, and because of this, any suggestion of rethinking our no-holds-barred approval of fast food is met with outcry.
“Fast food is cheap! You can’t get rid of it because it’s what a lot of people depend on to feed themselves and their families!”
Despite the fact that this is completely untrue, isn’t it a pretty sad state of affairs when the go-to food for those least able to support themselves is the one that’s most likely to put them in a position where they have to pay medical bills, which they also can’t afford, and cause them to be even less capable of paying for food?
Furthermore, fast food isn’t just food. It’s food plus chemicals that are terrible for you. How does the fact that the terrible chemicals are paired with food make it okay to serve them to anyone? That’s like saying tobacco is totally cool for children to munch on, so long as its paired with a food, which by the way, doesn’t even need to be a healthy one. Could be french fries for all we care. Go ahead son, eat your tobacco fries. They’ll give you cancer, but it’s cool, as long as they don’t cost me very much.
Please, stop doing this to our kids
At the end of the day, the reality of the situation is pretty clear: Fast food is a choice, and you can be sure that anything that defends the freedom to choose in America is a something that’s here to stay. In most respects, that’s totally fine with me. The fatter and grosser people get as a result of their bad decisions, the prouder it makes me to be a part of the increasingly smaller group of people that can still run a mile and wear a swimsuit. But there’s one huge problem with it being a choice that I simply cannot tolerate, and that is that this is a choice that is being made not just by adults, but by children, too.
Why do we regulate drugs? In the US, you must be 21 years old to have a glass of beer. This is because an adult is far more capable of using facts to make an intelligent decision with respect to himself than is a child, who is more likely to simply copy the behavior he sees going on around him. But when it comes to fast food, there is no regulation, which means that any adult who chooses to accept the consequences of eating fast food in turn forces those decisions on his child. Not only does this cause physical harm to a child who doesn’t know any better–unhealthy diets in children have been linked to ADHD, Asthma, Eczema and more–but it also sets them up for a lifetime of never questioning the horrible diet they were raised on. No one should be allowed to have the choice to harm their health made for them, and even if they’re making the choice for themselves, they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to do so before they’re mentally mature enough to do it intelligently.
We keep drugs away from people because we want them to be healthier and happier. If we thought the decision to not use drugs was one that people could easily make on their own, there would be no need to create and enforce the laws that make them illegal. But the fact is that humans aren’t perfect. People will take part in the things that are provided to them. Fast food is no different. As long as it is legal, people will continue to use it, because legality is society’s way of telling them that it’s okay. This needs to change.
And hey, if we’re capable of making the entire world scorn users of a substance as harmless as marijuana, surely we can do all that and more for people who eat actually harmful fast food? Right?