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Members of the MNB community who rail about excessive government intervention may want to sit down for this one…

The New York Times this morning reports on a two-month old law in Japan that requires companies and local governments to “measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.

“Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.

“To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years, the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. The country’s Ministry of Health argues that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check.”

The goal of the law isn’t just to improve the health of Japan’s populace, but also to stem the tide of rising health care costs, described by the Times as “one of the most serious and politically delicate problems facing Japan today.”

KC's View:
Sounds awfully draconian to me … like something out of “1984.”

I would agree with at least some of the critics of the program that if the Japanese government really wanted to have an impact on its population, it would do something about many Japanese people smoke. If you think about it, if the government brought the same level of intensity to an anti-smoking campaign that it has to measuring people’s waistlines, Japan could end up being the first nation that I know of to actually ban tobacco usage.