Government Bans of Trans Fats Seem to Work

In the mid to late 2000s, eleven New York counties banned the use of transfats in restaurant food. A new study shows that these countries experienced a larger decline in hospital admissions for stroke and myocardial infarction than did 25 counties that did not ban trans fat:

“Twenty-five counties were included in the non-restriction population and 11 in the restriction population. Three or more years after restriction implementation, the population with TFA restrictions experienced significant additional decline beyond temporal trends in MI and stroke events combined (−6.2%; 95% CI, −9.2% to −3.2%;P< .001) and MI (−7.8%; 95% CI, −12.7% to−2.8%;P= .002) and a nonsignificant decline in stroke (−3.6%; 95% CI, −7.6% to 0.4%;P= .08) compared with the non-restriction populations. ” (1).


These results complement a study published last year which concluded that the trans fat ban caused a 4.5% decline in cardiovascular disease-related mortality (2).

I find these results interesting because the prohibition of substances often doesn’t work very well (e.g. weed, alcohol, and opiates). In these areas, taxation is probably more effective than outright prohibition at decreasing consumption.

I would guess that trans fats are different because hydrogenated vegetable oil is just one ingredient in the food we eat and most people don’t know what contribution trans fats make to the taste of their foods. (Even if they did, I doubt they would particularly care for it.) Given this, it would be rather difficult for a black market to arise.

Libertarians like to obsess over failed attempts at government regulation. They often tell us that prohibition will lead to black markets and the rise of gang culture without decreasing consumption of the target good. In 2018, when an FDA ban on trans-fats because national, I seriously doubt that any of these things will happen. Instead, what seems most probable is that the health of the nation will improve, and virtually no one will feel like their freedom has been seriously curtailed.


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