The alert reader will remember my wacky, mixed-up support for Ken Yeager’s new law passed on April 25. Ken is the President of the Board of Supervisors for Santa Clara County, where it is now illegal to sell fast food meals with toys inside. This made national news, you’ll recall.
Fast forward to today.
I’m as supportive of the law as I was when it passed, but to offer equal time, here is an opposing viewpoint that mirrors the opinion of many in our community and others. I support the ban, which actually affects very few fast food restaurants in the county (and NO McDonalds), and I’ll share my opinion by paraphrasing what I said publicly when the law was being debated:
“President Yeager, members of the board, when I first heard about this proposed ordinance I thought ‘come on…surely local government could better spend its time on the budget, or on public safety.’ Public safety? Well, that got me thinking.
“And I remembered that as a 17-year-old freshman at San Jose State University, in 1985, it was common practice for tobacco companies to give away their products free in front of the student union. By the time I graduated, in 1989, they weren’t there anymore. Clearly, some policy decision had been made, changing the behavior.
“But policy can change more than behavior; it can change culture and attitude. If those same tobacco companies showed up tomorrow and started giving out ‘free samples’, I bet the community would be outraged, just as you would be if someone walked into these chambers with a lit cigarette. People would go nuts, yet thirty years ago it was commonplace.
“That’s what’s at stake here. Kids want the toy, they bug mom and dad for the fast food, and our childhood obesity epidemic is further fuelled. This really is a public health issue, and a seemingly small policy change can – and I think will – ultimately change culture and attitude…and we’ll look back on the time when fast food companies lured kids with toys to their meals loaded with sugar, salt and fat, and wonder what we were thinking.”
The law passed that morning, national media went ballistic…and here’s the punchline (which you already know if you clicked the link above): San Francisco City and County is now proposing a similar ordinance!
So that’s the “ripple”. I hope it spreads, and believe it will. I welcome all thoughtful responses, as always.