Mississippi defends its right to be fattest state

God love Mississippi.  Sure the state doesn’t care very much about slavery or women’s suffrage, but when it comes to helping its citizens die of a stroke, Mississippi is America’s leader, bar none.

You see, the Mississippi legislature just passed a law, that was signed by the governor, banning cities and counties from passing any laws or regulations limiting the size of food portions people can get in stores or restaurants.  This was apparently in response to an ordinance that Mayor Bloomberg tried to pass in New York City, limiting the sale of absurdly large soft drinks.

Obesity via Shutterstock

Obesity via Shutterstock

Mississippi, you won’t be surprised to hear, is the fattest state in the union, leading America in the percent of citizens who are officially obese.  34.9% of Mississippians, that’s more than 1 in 3, are obese.  At the state’s current trajectory, by 2030, 2 out of 3 Mississippians will be obese, with Mississippi still leading the pack among the 50 states.

A report released last year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, and displayed on the state of Mississippi Web site, shows that just reducing your body mass index by 5% (equivalent to a 200 pound man losing 10 pounds) could have the following benefits in Mississippi:

If BMIs were lowered by 5 percent, Mississippi could save 6.9 percent in health care costs, which would equate to savings of $ 6,120,000,000 by 2030.

The number of Mississippi residents who could be spared from developing new cases of major obesity-related diseases includes:

  • 86,347 people could be spared from type 2 diabetes,
  • 66,897 from coronary heart disease and stroke,
  • 56,741 from hypertension,
  • 35,176 from arthritis, and
  • 4,795 from obesity-related cancer.

There are a few things going on here.

1. It’s amazing how Republicans, and their southern base, couldn’t care less about the Patriot Act, about domestic spying without warrants, about habeas corpus, but boy, take away their big gulps and they’re ready to secede all over again.

Or how about focusing on the economy?  Mississippi leads the US in having the highest poverty and lowest income levels.  Do you think the state government might want to focus on that?  Nah.  Much more important to pass legislation allowing student-led prayers in public schools, because when they all drop from a stroke, they’ll be needing all the prayers they can get.

2. It’s more than a little interesting that this anti-anti-big-gulp law bears a remarkable resemblance to an anti-gay law that US Chamber of Commerce has been promoting in state legislatures.  The Chamber of Commerce’s anti-gay law forbids cities and counties from passing civil rights law, and it repeals any local civil rights laws already in place.  Isn’t it interesting that this new anti-anti-big-gulp law in Mississippi is crafted the exact same way.  It almost makes you wonder if well-monied big business isn’t behind it, greasing the palms of politicians who are in favor it.

They’re even using the same Chamber of Commerce talking points that were used in Tennessee to pay the anti-gay law – claiming that they needed to ban local laws in order to preserve consistency and uniformity in the state.

“It doesn’t prevent local government from promoting healthy foods,” said Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, which lobbied for the legislation.. “What it does do is prevent them from creating policy mandates for the sake of consistency and uniformity.”

Yeah, you’re all going to be consistently obese.  Good luck with that.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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