First tobacco, then drink, next sweets

31st October 2001

I DON’T like things banned and I don’t like the Government telling me what I should eat, drink or smoke.

Which is why I have a grudging respect for the Government’s approach to smoking and drinking. The policy is not to ban but to neutralise the promotion of these dodgy goods.

Very shortly, cigarettes will disappear from view in shops and people will have to order them from somewhere beneath the counter.

It won’t make a whole lot of difference but it is part of a guerrilla campaign against the fags – which has a lot of potential to marginalize their use. (And, possibly, their users!)

The reasons given for these moves is that smoking and drinking are major public health problems that lead to widespread ill-health and thousands of deaths each year.

What I can’t understand is the complete inaction on sweets. Particularly when it comes to the health of children.

A few facts can often illuminate: *

• Eating sugar containing foods and drinks is the most important cause of tooth decay.

• One in four five-year-olds and one in three 12 year olds take sweet snacks between meals three or more times a day.

• Over 40% of teenagers are consuming high fat and high sugar foods three or more times daily.

• Soft drinks are replacing milk in the diet of teenage girls increasing the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

• Poor nutrition is a ‘shared common risk factor’ for cardiovascular, cancer and oral diseases.

Nobody is going to argue about any of this. And as I say, people are entitled to eat whatever they like. What I’m concerned with is the promotion of sweets.

Any retail manager will tell you that the layout of shops have a major bearing on sales. Major chains employ experts on consumer behaviour to determine the siting of products that will maximise profits.

Impulse buying is a huge factor. For the retailers, out of sight is out of pocket. This being so, sweets must be a massive earner for the retail trade because they are right in your face wherever you go.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was all aimed at people who should know better, like myself (very fond of the ould crisps, you know). But, of course, the sweet trade is primarily aimed at children who are supposed to be under the age of consent. It really is disgraceful given the damage done.

What is required is regulations to ban the promotion of sweets. They should be sited away from tills for a start and advertising should be banned.

* Dental Health Foundation

As well as that…

Sweet tooth in the Irish psyche

YOURS truly has been referred to as ’Pol Pot’ because I don’t want people giving my kids sweets.

My own parents and siblings are the main culprits. Despite my being adamant about it, they don’t take a blind bit of notice.

And this is a huge problem in Ireland. People don’t honestly see that they are harming children. Eating is seen as a ‘reward’ and a form of relaxation despite the rising rates of obesity among children.

Not to mention toothaches and visits to the dentist. Would they think they are doing children a favour as the dentist wrenches the teeth out of their mouths. Well?

I might as well be talking to the wall.

Eating rubbish

I KNOW what you’re going to say – “sweet wrappers don’t throw themselves on the ground”. Fair enough, but by my estimation some 70-80% of litter is from sweets and fizzy drinks.

Another good reason to do something about sweets.