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Calorie counting: Making a bad ObamaCare rule even worse

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores has proposed yet another overreaching, cost-imposing Nanny State bill to save you from yourself because — get this — ObamaCare didn’t go far enough.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires restaurants with at least 20 locations to post the calorie counts of their food items on menus, menu boards and drive-through menus. The Food and Drug Administration is writing the regulations for the requirement, which soon will be enforced in all 50 states. On a five french-fry rating scale, we give the rule a zero.

However, Ms. Flores, D-Las Vegas, wants a stricter standard. Last week, she testified in support of Assembly Bill 126, co-sponsored by her and four other Democrats. It would impose the same calorie-disclosure requirements on restaurants with just 10 locations in Nevada, and create state fines in addition to federal penalties for businesses that fail to comply.

Talk about overkill. ObamaCare limited the reach of calorie counting to restaurant chains of 20 or more specifically to exempt small business, Lea Tauchen of the Retail Association of Nevada said in opposing AB126. No matter. Ms. Flores insists her bill is “a smart and effective way to produce good public health policy.”

For Ms. Flores and others, good public healthy policy is whatever makes them feel good. Because they can’t be at every restaurant, all the time, telling their constituents they’re too fat to order a cheeseburger, the best they can do is try to make diners feel guilty about their food choices.

Not surprisingly, it doesn’t work. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found diners’ decisions aren’t affected by the display of nutritional information.

People dine out for lots of reasons. To grab some nourishment on the go. To get together with a friend or colleague. To celebrate. To satisfy a craving. By and large, once someone walks into a restaurant’s doors — especially those of a fast-food establishment — they’ve already made the decision to eat there. They are not comparison shopping. They’re hungry, and they want to eat something that tastes good.

For businesses, this is more than an annoyance. It’s a new expense. Ms. Tauchen says it can cost between $500 and $1,000 to have a single food item nutritionally analyzed. That would add up fast at bakery-deli counters inside grocery stores, which have hundreds of potential choices. AB126 would hit a number of convenience store chains as well. Is anyone who buys a hot dog at a gas station worried about how many grams of fat they’ve consumed that day?

So much anti-obesity policy is arbitrary. That’s why a judge on Monday threw out New York City’s ban on restaurant sales of soft drinks larger than 16 ounces. Convenience stores and supermarkets weren’t covered by the ban. If broad exemptions are carved out, why have the rule in the first place?

Lawmakers use tax-funded health care as justification for making our diets their business. Bills such as AB126 are an argument against expanding government-run medicine.

ObamaCare is burdensome enough. AB126 is more legislative lard — it’s not good for anyone.

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