Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Keep the State out of Our Kitchens

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Keep the State out of Our Kitchens

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Keep the state out of our kitchens

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An editorial from the Waterloo Region Record, published Oct. 25:

Whatever good it might do for the collective waistline, the Ontario Medical Association's latest campaign against obesity is a prescription for an overweight and overbearing nanny state.

No doubt the physicians mean well. Indeed, their warnings about the dangers of an unhealthy diet packed with empty calories should be heeded. Given the unacceptably high levels of obesity in Canada, concerted action to deal with it is justifiable. But this is one case where what the doctor ordered goes too far.

Putting a special tax on chips, pop and other sugary or fatty foods, as the doctors' association advocates, is unreasonably intrusive, condescending and of unproven value in fighting obesity. Just as objectionable is the doctors' proposal to dissuade people from buying certain foods by slapping graphic photographs of damaged livers or ulcerated feet on product packages. We have only one word for it: Yuck.

Governments should, in general, impose taxes to raise the revenues they need for essential public services and programs, not to punish individuals or coerce them into behaving in a certain way. The doctors' basic premise, in this regard, is wrong.

Yes, we have a "sin" tax on tobacco, and the doctors' association believes the hardball tactics governments used to cut smoking rates should be extended to junk food. But they fail to recognize that tobacco is very different from chocolate. Tobacco contains the stimulant nicotine, one of the most highly addictive substances known to humans. Even when used as their manufacturers intend, cigarettes cause serious, life-threatening health problems.

A candy bar is different, especially if consumed sparingly and as part of a balanced diet. And that's one of the biggest flaws in the doctors' proposal. Their cry for higher taxes and unpleasant packaging makes no distinction between the couch potato who devours five bags of chips and a litre of pop a night, and the marathon runner who, once a month, washes down a cookie with a glass of cola. …

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