WHILE the state should ideally not be in the business of telling people what they can eat or drink, when it comes to vulnerable and impressionable segments of the population — such as youngsters — some regulations are necessary. In this regard, the Punjab Food Authority’s recent move to ban the sale of carbonated beverages in and around schools should be welcomed. Fizzy drinks have a magnetic effect on youngsters who are attracted to their sugary flavours and neon colours. However, the effects these drinks have on young bodies can be highly negative. In fact, some countries, on the advice of experts, have considered slapping a ‘fat tax’ on sugary drinks as a way to fight high obesity rates. Justifying its decision, the PFA took the action as it says “carbonated drinks [are] … injurious to health, affecting [the] physical growth of children”. Legal action will be taken against those selling such drinks in school canteens and within a 100-metre radius of educational institutions. The ban is due to take effect after the summer vacations.
With the fizzy drinks’ ban, we are reminded of tobacco makers’ earlier targeting of youngsters with cute mascots and cartoons. Through the successful campaigns of activists, such deceptive advertising designed to attract young smokers was shut down. Manufacturers of carbonated beverages should be free to market their products — but not directly to children too young to understand what is and what is not good for their health. The PFA’s move should be studied and replicated by other provinces so that children across Pakistan are kept away from sugary drinks while in school. According to figures published in The Lancet some years ago, Pakistan ranked 9th out of 188 countries where obesity was concerned. Instead of allowing the powerful producers of junk food to target children, more efforts must be made to encourage healthy eating habits so that youngsters are provided with nutritious foods and snacks that aid their physical and mental growth.
Courtesy ” Dawn”