United Airlines Begins Charging Obese People for Extra Seat
Obese people will now be forced to buy an additional ticket or upgrade to business class on United Airlines flights. The new policy was developed in response to complaints received by people "who did not have a comfortable flight because the person next to them infringed on their seat," according to a United Airlines spokesperson.
Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research & Weight Stigma Initiatives, said this policy discriminates against obese people and will be difficult to enforce fairly. She commented on this recent example of weight bias and discrimination on CBS’ The Early Show and on her blog, One Seat for the Price of Two. According to Dr. Puhl, important considerations in this debate include:
- Other countries with obesity rates similar to the United States have faced the same situation but have approached it differently. The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that Canada’s largest airline (Air Canada) cannot charge obese persons for an extra ticket and ordered that all passengers pay the same fare regardless of their weight or disability. As a result of this ruling, more people will be able to afford to fly.
- It is unclear how this new policy can be implemented fairly, especially if the airline requires ticket counter agents or flight attendants to judge which passengers should be charged for an extra seat.
- It seems appropriate for airlines to provide seats that accommodate a reasonable percentage of passengers who do not fit the current seat sizes. Given that 34 percent of Americans are obese, why not make one-third of the seats larger?
- The “emotional turbulence” of negative comments, fat jokes, or inappropriate remarks from other passengers is a reality for many travelers. The additional stigma that obese passengers will face with this new policy could lead many to avoid flying.
Weight bias and discrimination can reduce the quality of life for vast numbers of overweight and obese people and have both immediate and long-term consequences for their emotional and physical health. Click here to read the Rudd Center's recent publications on weight bias.
Media Coverage on the Case for Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
To combat the obesity epidemic, Rudd Center Director Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, and New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, advocated taxing sugared beverages in the April 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
In their “Perspective” piece, they reviewed scientific studies that suggest the possibility that taxes could help reduce consumption of sugared beverages, cut caloric intake, and help prevent obesity, diabetes, and the consequences of these conditions. Noting that “taxes on tobacco have been highly effective in reducing consumption,” the authors wrote that a penny-per-ounce tax on sugared beverages could both reduce consumption and generate revenue for programs to prevent obesity among children and adults.
In his blog for Prevention, David L. Katz, MD, Director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale University School of Medicine, took issue with the American Beverage Association’s opposition to a proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The trade group’s President said that the problem will not be solved by focusing on one product.
“Brownell and Frieden state explicitly in their article that taxing soda won't 'cure' childhood obesity on its own,” Dr. Katz wrote. “They recognize it as one small effort among many to contain the avalanche of obesigenic factors into our daily lives, and into the lives of our children.”
Listen to Dr. Brownell discuss the details of a soda tax in this podcast and on ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson.
Weight Stigma Widespread in Lives of Obese Adults
The stigmatization of obese adults by employers, educators, healthcare providers, family members, romantic partners, and the media is rampant. Its prevalence is reported by Rudd Center researchers Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research & Weight Stigma Initiatives, and Chelsea Heuer, MPH, Research Associate, in the current issue of the journal Obesity. The study analyzed over 150 scientific studies published since 2000 that provide evidence of weight-based stigma, discrimination, social inequalities, and a range of harmful consequences for those who are obese, including vulnerability to depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, eating disorders, and exercise avoidance. Read more about the study.
Upcoming Seminar Speakers:
May 13, 12:30 pm: Barry M. Popkin, PhD
Our seminars are held at the Rudd Center, located at 309 Edwards Street in New Haven, Connecticut, 06511. They are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download as a PDF document.
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Weight Bias in Healthcare: An Important Clinical Concern
The Rudd Center has teamed up with Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network, to disseminate its research and educational videos about weight bias in healthcare (free Medscape online registration required). The first collaboration features commentary from Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research & Weight Stigma Initiatives at the Rudd Center. The article answers the following questions: Do obese children and adults face weight bias from healthcare providers? What are the consequences?
Stay tuned for further work from the Rudd Center and Medscape about weight bias.
Spotlight on Rudd Center Affiliated Faculty: Ravi Dhar, PhD
Ravi Dhar is the George Rogers Clark Professor of Management and Marketing and Director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale University School of Management. He is also an affiliated Professor in the Yale Psychology Department.
His research involves using psychological and economic principles to investigate fundamental aspects about the formation of consumer preferences in order to understand and predict consumer behavior in the marketplace. One current research study examines how an initial choice influences subsequent choices.
Dr. Dhar has collaborated with the Rudd Center on understanding how consumers shop for grocery food products when they have limited mental resources (e.g., under stress or time pressure). Another project has examined the shopping behavior of low-income families for supermarket products.
He earned his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, and MS and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Dhar has written more than 40 articles and serves on the editorial boards of leading marketing journals, such as Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, and Marketing Science. He has been recognized numerous times in marketing research, including as a finalist for the Paul Green Award and recipient of the William O'Dell Award.
The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts
Kelly D. Brownell, PhD
Director, Rudd Center
A Perspective on Taxing Sugared Beverages
Christina Economos, PhD
New Balance Chair, Childhood Nutrition; Associate Director, John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
Our collection of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine – Nutrition & Obesity section, or you may subscribe to a RSS Feed that will automatically update whenever new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.