EDITORIAL: It’s time to end the obesity epidemic

We say: We’ve helped snuff tobacco, let’s tackle obesity next.

Canada is getting fat.

A study by a Memorial University in St. John’s professor published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that between 1985 and 2011 the rate of obese Canadians has tripled from six to 18 per cent. By 2019 more than one in five Canadians will be obese.

Measuring obesity — typically done by calculating a ratio of weight to height — is an inexact science. But in general if you are a six-foot person weighing more than 220 pounds you probably qualify. The same applies to a five-foot-four person who tips the scales at more than 175 pounds.

Like cigarettes, obesity is tied to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. Like cigarettes, obesity will eventually kill you. And, like cigarettes, obesity is an issue that can be best addressed by stopping it before it takes hold.

An essential element in achieving that goal is an education campaign that hits Canadians early and often.

Show us the harms caused by obesity. Show us the best ways to combat the disease. Give us easy access to the tools we need to fight it.

Supplement this by adding warning labels on high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, accompanied by a prohibitive junk food tax that helps fund our health care system while deterring people from buying those products.

In short, tackle obesity with the same zest and vigour with which we’ve tackled cigarettes.

And then turn things over to our best marketers, who can pose the following question to the next generation:

“If we were to offer you a product that would slow your reflexes, create rolls on your belly, add a few chins, make it harder to find clothes, have you gasping for breath, sap your energy level, cost you thousands of dollars a year, and cut your life short, would you be interested?”

The answer should be and would be an unequivocal ‘no.’

If we pose the question long enough and loud enough, perhaps it will be.

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