W. A Bogart. 2013. Regulating Obesity? Government, Society, and Questions of Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press. $85. pp. 224. Hardback. ISBN 978‐0‐19‐985620‐6.

AuthorTinapa Himathongkam
Published date01 March 2015
Date01 March 2015
Book Review
W.A. Bogart. 2013. Regulating Obesity? Government, Society, and Questions of Health.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. $85. pp. 224. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-19-985620-6.
The pace at which the obesity epidemic has been spreading in the past 3
decades has attracted much attention from health-care professionals, policy-
makers, researchers, and other stakeholders alike. Programs and policies aimed at
addressing the issue have largely focused on weight loss as the primary indicator
of success. W. A. Bogart argues, in Regulating Obesity? Government, Society, and
Questions of Health, that that approach has not only failed to curb obesity rates but
also created prejudice against fat individuals. The author suggests that the
emphasis should instead be on encouraging a healthy lifestyle while letting
weight loss be the outcome rather than the end goal.
Authored by a professor of law, the book explores the effectiveness and the
implications of the legal approach to regulating consumption and in creating
norms. The essence of his previous volume, Permit But Discourage: Regulating
Excessive Consumption, is echoed throughout the book as the most appropriate
role of law. The focus should shift from weight loss to the promotion of a healthy
lifestyle that includes nutritious diets and adequate exercise. The major fallacy in
putting weight loss in the spotlight is the failure to emphasize the means to
achieve that end in a sustainable manner. The majority of people who manage to
shed pounds off their weight regain everything in 5 years.
The work consists of three parts. Part I explores existing regulations and legal
interventions and evaluates their effectiveness, or the lack thereof, in reducing
obesity rates. Bogart uses alcohol and tobacco control as parallel cases of
undesirable consumption. Law, he argues, cannot change behavior. Rather, it is
most effective when used to regulate the environment that discourages unwanted
behaviors. Bogart also emphasizes the importance of a “regulatory mix,”
combining various legal strategies, and its relationship with societal norms.
Smoking in the mid-20th century, for example, was viewed as a glamorous act in
the media. The common perception was that smoking promoted sociability and
even suppressed appetite. It was the simultaneous changing norms and the use of
regulations that led to a clear reduction in tobacco use. The image of smokers
World Medical & Health Policy, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2015
1948-4682 #2015 Policy Studies Organization
Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX42 DQ.

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