I’m always ambivalent about using legislation to change behaviour. You have to be smart about it; blanket bans can wind up backfiring. (Memo to self: confirm there’s no legislation banning blankets.)
But my immediate reaction to the proposal in Ontario to ban marketing junk food to kids is pretty unambiguous: go for it.
Here’s where I should run through the public health evidence supporting such a ban (for instance, after a similar ban in Quebec, fast-food purchases fell 13%). And where I should acknowledge the need for a broader set of policies in addition to legislation.
But instead, I’m just going to tell you that I have an overwhelming bias on this score: a deep-seated, unshakeable hatred for candy stands at checkout counters. Specifically, the candy stands that sit – in store after store after store after store – at kids’-eye level.
Hockey coach to a girls’ team, shortly before taking them to eat at McDonald’s, in an ad for the restaurant chain:
“You played like Olympians. So today, we eat like Olympians.”
From the discarded footage immediately afterward:
Uh, yeah, coach? Speaking as team captain, I appreciate the thought – we all do – but are you sure that’s how Olympians eat?
I know they’re sponsors, and I know they paid a lot of money for the privilege. But isn’t the Olympic spirit supposed to be about self-denial in support of a dream? Isn’t it about pursuing excellence, about standing out from the crowd, about profound respect for ourselves in body, mind and spirit?
And isn’t McDonald’s about the exact opposite? About instant gratification at the expense of nutrition, and about uniformity of experience at the expense of extraordinary achievement?
I mean, yeah, we did come up short today… and part of the reason could be that we’ve been eating a lot of after-hockey meals of Big Macs.
I know you want to reward us for our perseverance and effort. But maybe the way to do that isn’t by undercutting our dedication, but celebrating it and supporting it.
Oh, no, I do like being team captain. Why do you ask?