Graphic cigarette warnings labels, what’s next?

Cigarettes will now come with pictures conveying the dangers of smoking, including a man with a tracheostomy, a corpe of a smoker, and a woman smoking while holding a baby. The Food and Drug Administration has mandated that these new warning labels must be in place by 2012 and hope they will lessen tobacco use. American Cancer Society CEO John R. Seffrin is satisfied with the new labels and says they can “encourage adults to give up their deadly addiction to cigarettes and deter children from starting in the first place.” Time will tell if these warning will make a difference. I know they would scare me, but then again I’ve never smoked and I’m at an age where I’m not affected by peer pressure.

I am just wondering where this will lead. Will they start putting pictures of diseased hearts and clogged arteries on Happy Meals? Perhaps french fries will include a picture of an overweight child looking sad on the sidelines because he can’t keep up with his friends?

I cannot go down the cereal isle at the supermarket without my children asking me for Trix, Lucky Charms, etc. They get excited when they see the toys they can get in the box and my three-year-old daughter thinks the Trix Rabbit is “so funny.” Toys in Happy Meals, cereal boxes with cartoons on them, all aggressive marketing tools aimed at our children to beg mommy to buy their product. I know many will disagree with me on this, but I can’t really blame the company- they’re just targeting their consumers.

Why don’t some healthier breakfast foods catch on to this marketing? Put a prize in the oatmeal box, for crying out loud! How about for every carton of eggs you buy, one egg is the “surprise egg.” Instead of an egg coming out when you crack it, a chicken tattoo is inside. Surprise! I guess this could get kind of messy as your kids search for the prizes though.

In all seriousness, instead of scaring our kids to eat healthy, maybe we should try educating them first. Pediatric obesity numbers have been climbing for years, yet now it’s an epidemic? Can’t we be a little more proactive instead of so reactive? Some schools in our area ban sweets for holiday or end-of-year parties. I highly doubt that the one cupcake little Suzie is having at her party is what’s making her fat. How about educating her about sweets in moderation? Teach her the importance of eating healthy throughout the year to make her heart, muscles, and bones stronger. Ask my son why he likes broccoli and steak and he’ll tell you that it makes him smarter and stronger (than daddy).

The FDA can decide to ban toys in Happy Meals or cartoons on cereal boxes, but it all begins at home. It’s really up to parents to educate their children on choosing healthy foods. Stop blaming the commercials (turn the tv off), the schools (send lunch from home), and the cereal companies (don’t buy the cereal). I also think that banning your child from eating the occasional cookie or ice cream is a bad idea. There’s going to come a time when you’re not around to monitor him and he may not be able to control himself from eating 10 cookies. Sweets are not evil, they’re just meant for special occasions and in moderation. Be active as a family, let your children see you exercise, and make sure you’re eating the same healthy foods you want them to eat. If more parents set an example for their children, both the adult and pediatric obesity rates would go down in this country, guaranteed.

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