Drugs are illegal because drugs harm people. A dubious conclusion given that in 1994, John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator and President Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, explained the reason why the federal government started the war on drugs:
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
But lets assume things should be illegal if they harm people.
According to a study published in 2010 by “Society of Teachers of Family Medicine,” or STFM, found that the average total cost for the healthy-food-diet model was $5,019 per year. The average cost of the convenient-food-diet model was more than twice that of the healthy-food-model, at $10,298 per year. The average daily cost of the healthy diet was $7.48, while the fast food diet averaged $15.30 per day. The study found that while food costs represented a significant portion of annual income, diets based primarily on convenient food sources, such as fast food, were more expensive than well-planned diets with foods acquired from supermarket chains. In conclusion, the STFM report found that “[d]iets based heavily on foods from convenient sources are less healthy and more expensive than a well-planned menu from budget foods available from large supermarket chains.”
In another study, rats were fed a standard junk food diet, complete with cookies, cakes, biscuits, and other junk foods for two weeks. Another group of rats were fed a ‘standard lab chow’ diet. They were then observed under Pavlovian conditions, when a sound cue informed the rats it was time for their next serving. You can guess what happened. The ‘junk-food rats’ ate until they were glutinously full, obese, and ill, and the ‘healthy –diet rats’ stopped eating naturally – when they were full, and not over-stuffed. Dr. Amy Reichelt, the lead author explains that “As the global obesity epidemic intensifies, advertisements may have a greater effect on people who are overweight and make snacks like chocolate bars harder to resist.” Professor Margaret Morris, another author of the study adds “It’s like you’ve just had ice cream for lunch, yet you still go and eat more when you hear the ice cream van come by.”
Junk food is addicitive. Junk food floods the brain with the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, affecting the regions that govern pleasure and self-control. Over time, the function and structure of the brain change and dopamine receptors are reduced, making drugs, food and other substances less enjoyable but still desperately desired.
Clearly, fast food is addictive in same way as drugs, say scientists. John Hoebel, a psychologist at Princeton University, and colleagues showed that rats fed a diet containing 25 per cent sugar developed withdrawal symptoms when the sugar was removed, including chattering teeth and shivering. When the rats were given a dose of naloxone, a drug that blocks opioid receptors, the researchers noted a drop in dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of cells in the mid-brain linked with feelings of reward. Writing in Obesity Research, he says this is the same pattern of neurochemical activity seen in heroin addicts going through withdrawal. “Drugs give a bigger effect, but it’s essentially the same process,” he said. Other scientists, including Ann Kelley, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin medical school, have observed similar changes in brain chemistry.
It is no wonder we are facing a global obesity epidemic. The United States is the epicenter of this troubling phenomenon, with 2 our of 3 Americans being clinically overweight or obese. If we check the numbers against the Historical Atlas of the 20th Century, 203 million people died in the last century from war and oppression – including military and collateral civilian casualties from conflicts, genocide, politicide (i.e., the extermination of people who share a political belief), mass murders, and famines. This equates to an average of 2. million deaths a year – but the junk food habit kills more. The World Health Organization has found that at least 2.8 million people die annually from diseases linked to obesity including heart disease, diabetes, and brain stroke.
In other words, eating fast food is addictive. Eating fast food kills 40 percent more people than wars, famine, dictators, murderers, and politicians put together. But burgers, fries and deep fried chicken or tacos are not illegal. No one goes to jail for dealing burgers and fries.