Chuck Kuepfer, Spin Cycle
So the Ontario Medical Association has come out with a suggestion this week, actually a press release, stating that junk food should be treated the same way as tobacco.
Not hidden behind closed, unlabeled shelving as is the case with nicotine products.
But slapped with graphic warning labels, and taxed in a higher bracket, just like smokes and alcohol.
Of course, junk food and tobacco are vastly different products.
However, the implications for the health system are likewise burdensome.
“We are raising a generation of children that will suffer from devastating and wholly preventable diseases, overwhelm the health system, and die prematurely,” states OMA president Doug Weir in the strongly worded press release. “We need immediate and strong legal action to address what Ontario’s doctors are now seeing in the diabetes clinics and the stroke centres, and on the operating table: a full-scale public health crisis.”
According to the OMA, obesity costs Ontario $2.2-$2.5 billion per year.
The association advocates a “multi-pronged suite of policies to reverse the course of childhood obesity.”
That includes marketing restrictions for fatty and sugary foods, restricted availability of junk food in sports and recreational facilities, and consumer health warnings to accompany retail displays of junk food.
The OMA is taking its cues from the route we’ve taken in regards to smoking, a useful precedent that could save our children from a lifetime of obesity.
And there you have it.
With its cards laid clearly on the table, our province’s doctors have opened up “that” can of worms.
The one about how far the tentacles of a Nanny State can reach into the lives of those who live under the banner of democracy.
For sure, public attitudes about smoking have changed in recent decades, but should the same “public shaming,” as some call it, be extended to those whose food choices extend their waistlines and subsequently compromise their health?
Public information, a subtle form of propaganda, has helped slash smoking rates from 50 per cent in the 1960s to less than 20 per cent.
That data is all the evidence the OMA needs to advocate a similar approach to legislate and regulate the sale of junk food.
But does it go too far?
We’re always told that “everything in moderation” is the best advice, but with almost one-in-three children in the country considered overweight or obese it’s clear that either self control or education about the evils of junk food is lacking.
The OMA is concerned that, as predicted by American researchers recently, obesity could cut a person’s life short by two-to-five years, “meaning today’s children may be the first in the history of North America to live shorter lives than their parents.”
It’s a sobering prospect, perhaps only serving as a further evidence that there are just as many traps and snares in the land of plenty as there are in the land of need.
Which is food for thought indeed.