The Center for Disease Control recently launched “Tips from Former Smokers,” an anti-smoking adver­tisement cam­paign expected to help about 50,000 smokers quit.

Launched in March, it is the first-ever national anti-smoking adver­tisement cam­paign created by a federal orga­ni­zation in the United States. According to the CDC, nearly one in five American adults smoke.

The CDC’s anti-smoking adver­tise­ments rely mostly on shock imagery and gross-out guilt. If you attended a public school between third and sixth grade, you know what kind of anti-smoking pro­pa­ganda I’m talking about. If not, the ads are on Youtube.

Forget for a moment that smokers, according to The New York Times article, find these kinds of ads “alarming and demeaning.” Forget that if these com­mer­cials were pro­duced by anyone other than the gov­ernment, the Federal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mission would saddle the ads with TV-MA ratings faster than you could say “Marlboro Man.”

Assume the cam­paign is suc­cessful. Say 50,000 smokers quit and the CDC pats itself on the back.

What next?

In 2008 the U.S. spent $147 billion on obesity-related health costs. In com­parison, the U.S. spends $96 billion on smoking-related health care costs annually. So what about obesity?

A research team from the Uni­versity of Cal­i­fornia blamed sugar for the country’s obesity epi­demic.

Pro­fessor Robert Lustig, pro­fessor of pedi­atrics at the Uni­versity of Cal­i­fornia, pro­posed in Feb­ruary that the gov­ernment implement a high sugar tax — in addition to an age restriction on the pur­chase of sugary goods — because sugar is just as “toxic” as alcohol and tobacco. He cites bans on public smoking, gov­ern­mental require­ments on air bags in auto­mo­biles, and the placement of condom dis­pensers in public bath­rooms as precedent for gov­ernment inter­vention in sugar.

“These simple mea­sures — which have all been on the bat­tle­ground of American pol­itics — are now taken for granted as essential tools for our public health and well-being,” Lustig wrote in the science journal Nature. “It’s time to turn our attention to sugar.”

So let’s say the CDC launches another cam­paign, but instead of smoking, obesity — specif­i­cally sugar-related obesity — is the target. Instead of tips from smoking victims, you’ll get tips from Pixie Stix victims. When you sit down to watch prime-time T.V., instead of smoker’s with stomas and pic­tures of black lungs, you and your kids will get a front row seat to a gastric bypass surgery and pic­tures of fatty midriffs.

Assume the second ad cam­paign works, 50,000 obese Amer­icans lose weight, and the CDC pats itself on the back again.

What next?

Con­sider this: unin­tended preg­nancy is listed as a pre­ventable disease in the Affordable Health and Patient Care Act. Just like smoking.

Not only will stomas and gastric bypass surgery be appearing on prime-time T.V., but also mothers com­plaining about how their pre­ventable-disease children have ruined their lives. Sud­denly “bastard child” doesn’t sound so bad.

“If [the anti-smoking] ad cam­paign helps people quit and pre­vents some from starting, it’s the right thing to do,” John Seffrin of the American Cancer Society told The New York Times.

So the ends justify the means.  But do they? A gov­ernment agency is using $54 million of tax money to con­vince 20 percent of the people paying those taxes to change their habits. What kind of precedent does that set, not just for sugar restric­tions and the CDC, but for the gov­ernment at large?