California, always on the vanguard when it comes to replacing parental responsibility with heavy-handed government interference, has just passed a bill that will make it illegal for restaurants to offer children anything to drink other than water or milk. In a legislative push sponsored in part by the American Cancer Society, the bill, which will likely be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown very soon, will forbid restaurants from offering soda or other sugary beverages to children on their menus.
“Cancer is fought in the halls of government,” said the ACS. “Not just in the halls of a hospital.”
A rep for the organization told the local CBS station: “Some of these kids are drinking up to three sodas a day. This is setting them up for tremendous cancer risks down the road.”
We don’t doubt there’s some truth to that, but we question whether having the occasional Coke at a restaurant is really laying the foundation for that risk. Are we seriously going to start treating soda with the same heavy-handed regulation that we treat tobacco and alcohol? Is it really necessary to take this decision away from parents? Is the problem here large enough that the government should stomp its way into the private marketplace and tell restaurants what they can and cannot sell to children?
“I think the government shouldn’t determine what’s available when I, as a mother, know what’s best for my child,” an opponent of the bill named Inez Deocio said.
The California bill will not actually prevent restaurants from selling soda, juice, or other sugary beverages to children, but parents will have to ask for these options specifically. They cannot be advertised on the menus or offered by the staff. If restaurants violate the law, they will be subject to a fine of up to $500.
As we said, we’re not denying that childhood obesity is a problem, but where does the nanny-stating end? What about the food options that are available to these children? If you down your Happy Meal with water instead of Coke, are you not still in danger of getting fat? Will cheeseburgers be next on the ban list? Are we going to keep age-restricting food until children can only eat pre-formulated Nutrition Gruel straight from a government factory?
This reminds us of that big push every Halloween to tell kids and parents about the tremendous risk of tooth decay that comes from eating candy. As if one night of eating Fun Size Snickers is going to create an epidemic of cavities from coast to coast. These kids might stop drinking Mountain Dew at the local burger shop, but what about the other 99.9% of their lives? Is the government going to step in and start monitoring their homes?
God knows, let’s not give them any ideas.