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(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of July 12, 2004)

Psst, Wanna Buy Some Coca Cola

   By John Martin

Well, it was just a matter of time.  Overzealous governments, city councils and health officials have pretty well had their way banning smoking everywhere other than oneís home (and that will no doubt soon change for households where any dependant under nineteen resides).  As a life-long non-smoker, I canít say Iím personally overly perturbed by this trend, though itís still a gross and dangerous example of government intrusion.   But now the do-gooders, who know much better than you or I how to live our lives, are getting restless.  Theyíre looking for more witches.  And they think theyíve found them. Soda pop and junk food on school property.  Meet the latest demons soon to be eradicated by big brother.

Government and health busybodies from one end of the country to the other have begun declaring these legally manufactured products their latest arch-villain.  Christy Clark, the very spinny deputy premier of this province and Dalton McGunity, the boldfaced, lying premier of Ontario, have both announced their desire to ban junk food sales on school property.  School districts, one after another, have started removing vending machines and eliminating pop, chips and the like from school cafeteria menus.

As always, there are a number of compelling and seemingly justified reasons for going down this path.  Obesity among youth is getting out of control.  Poor diet, combined with inactivity and a videogame-obsessed culture, is resulting in the most overweight and out of shape generation in history.  And of course, all this has ramifications on soaring health costs and such.

But notwithstanding these noble intentions; legislators and administrators need to get out of the moral entrepreneurial business and leave these choices to the kidsí parents.  Right now itís about banning the sale and advertising of junk food on school property.  Personally, Iím not opposed to that.  But anyone with a deep-fried morsel of honesty in his artery-clogged body knows it wonít end there.  Phase two, in fact, has already commenced in California with new legislation passed three weeks ago.  The Golden State just banned soda in middle and junior high schools during regular school hours.  This isnít just about selling the stuff; the legislation prohibits students from bringing the contraband on school property altogether.

I guess now we can expect little Timmy to get sent home in the middle of the school day with a two-week suspension because he got caught knocking back a bottle of root beer during recess.  And no doubt high school dropouts will start hanging around the elementary school trying to sell bags of Crackerjacks.  ďCímon guy, the first one wonít even cost you anything.Ē  How about installing sugar detectors in the hallways and bringing in potato chip sniffing dogs to check out the lockers?  Hmmm, there might be a preservation of evidence problem with that one. 

 Lots of people do things that arenít good for them.  High impact aerobics are bad for your knees, air conditioning is bad for your respiratory system, personal computer keyboards cause carpal tunnel syndrome and anyone who has ever had a job knows that voting NDP is bad for your wallet.  The bottom line is that government only does a handful of things even somewhat effectively.  I canít actually think of any of them off hand, but dictating how people should live their lives certainly isnít one of them. 

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at John.Martin@ucfv.ca

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