I should add that I do realize that trans fats and the fats that will substitute for them are equally caloric, and presumably equally fattening. Saletan's piece is clear on this point, and I assumed readers would take the linked article as background and assume that I understood it. But I see from the comments that some readers think I didn't. Nevertheless, it's fair to ask why I think people are really alarmed about appearances, not health, when they back a regulation like this, considering that it's rather unlikely to make anyone thinner.I also want to say that I do accept government regulation of dangerous substances. I only object to bad regulation, and I'm suspicious of this one.
I'm talking about the emotions here, not reason. I think people are buying into the theory that the food industry is nefarious and must be controlled because they see a problem and they want a villain. People support ineffective regulation all the time: they want to see something done. Look at all the people fretting about "high fructose corn syrup," with assertions that it's making everyone fat, even though, if it were banned, other, equally caloric sugars would be substituted. Yet people think there's some special problem with the stuff. They want to blame the food industry.
One thing I didn't think about, however, and wish I'd put in the original post, is that plenty of fat people themselves support regulation like this. It's not just a matter of feeling alarmed about what is happening to other people. Some of this is alarm about one's own body. People cannot control their own weight, so it must be some outside force making them fat. This failure to take personal responsibility is a downward spiral. There will never be enough regulation to make people thin. After every ban, people will wolf down whatever is still legal, and then cry for more help. If you keep an honest tally of how many calories you consume, you'll see it's your own fault if you're fat. It may be a terrible fault to overcome, but it is still your fault. If you think it isn't, it will only become harder to overcome.
Which may be why people are getting so fat. They've been lured into thinking that their bodies are not their own responsibility.
But I accept the scientific evidence for whatever it is worth. I'm a little concerned that the oil substitutes won't hold up to high heat frying and there will be a lot of food cooked in rancid oil. But if the proof is strong enough, I would be willing to support a ban, it may surprise you to know. And I'd be quite likely to support a labeling requirement.