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EDITORIAL: Like candy to a baby

Many complaints have been lodged over the years about big companies marketing their products to youth. That’s the group, as they say, that represents the future. But the prospect becomes disturbing when we consider that younger people are still forming their capacity to make prudent decisions.

Sugary cereals seriously lacking in nutrition – that’s bad enough, although likely mom or dad will be the one to make that purchase. Sweet drinks – that’s another bone of contention, with so much concern about levels of obesity in today’s society, and the pattern in many cases beginning in childhood. That issue has developed to the point where schools and other organizations ponder the idea of banning them.

But when it comes to drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, another level of complication is added, and it can have deadly consequences.

A recent case in Quebec had a tragic outcome. A 14-year-old girl who was missing was later found dead in a stream behind her school. It was discovered by media that she had been drinking a sweetened, malt-based alcoholic beverage with an 11.9 per cent alcohol content. The cans of the drink, which have been available in convenience stores, were stolen.

A well-known store chain immediately made the decision to pull the product from its shelves. Since then, the Quebec government has signalled a move to ban sales of high-alcohol, sugary drinks from convenience and grocery stores, restricting them to liquor commission outlets.

Also, the company has cease production of this particular drink.

It’s not hard to see the allure in a drink that, taste-wise, is just a step beyond the sugary soda drinks that children are used to. But a child, unfamiliar with alcoholic beverages, might be unlikely to recognize the relative potency of something with the alcohol content of table wine.

Anyone in fact, regardless of age, might have little trouble downing a potentially lethal quantity of such a sweet-tasting beverage.

Some governments have made the move, for similar reasons, to ban flavoured tobacco products. Likely we’ll see concerns raised in the future, with legal cannabis, regarding edibles such as marijuana-laced cookies.

Parents need to be aware too that these products are out there and might be a temptation to some young people. If they’re in touch with their kids and what they get up to, they would be in the best position to surmise whether these products might fall into the hands of their children or their friends. If that’s the case, the best they can do is counsel them about the potential dangers of substances that, to young minds, might sound like fun and games.

But just as with other food and beverage products that are far from wholesome, or even dangerous, retailers need to put careful consideration into where and how they are available. When a problematic pattern does develop, governments have to take note and realize that the safety of its citizens is more important than product availability on store shelves. Those items that earn a certain reputation also should earn the fate of being banned.

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