A necessary means to put an end to youth obesity


I recently came across an article in the Kowloon Voice calling for a ban on soft drinks for children under the age of 12 in Hong Kong. It is indeed invigorating to see that there are sensible citizens in Hong Kong who are aware of the ever-worsening problem of obesity among our youth. The fact that soft drinks are overtly easily accessible to our children contributes to the growing prevalence of this medical issue and I am fairly certain that legislating a ban is necessary to ensure the health of our future pillars.

To start with, a ban would be able to directly prevent children from purchasing soft drinks in the first place, thus eliminating or at the very least, significantly reducing their chances of becoming obese, which guarantees their health. Empirical research has been conducted in regard to the various causes of obesity and all signs point to the excessive consumption of sugary beverages as the primary suspect. Under globalisation, people can easily gain access to foreign soft drink brands such as Coca-Cola and Sprite. Combined with a rising living standard, it is ever more common to see children grasping a sugary beverage on hand simply because they have the money to do so. With this ban, children will no longer be allowed to purchase soft drinks at their own will, effectively safeguarding them from the potential health risks of soft drinks.

Apart from this, a ban on soft drinks carries educational value, sending a resounding message to children that soft drinks are unhealthy and lead to higher risks of contracting deadly illnesses, such as diabetes and heart diseases. Certainly, it is safe to say that children under the age of 12 lack the capacity to fully comprehend the detrimental and far-reaching effects of consuming soft drinks. After all, all that runs through their mind when they purchase and drink these beverages is the rush of adrenaline it brings and the notion that these drinks are tasty. Under this ban, children would be inspired to look behind the sugary facade of soft drinks and understand the rationale behind such a ban. In other words, the fact that such practice is deemed illegal can serve as a constant reminder to children that soft drinks are to be avoided at all costs, helping them internalize this belief and pave a way to a healthier mindset.

Last but not least, a ban fulfills government’s responsibility and brings overall benefits to society. Indeed, it is undeniable that a person possesses an inherent right to choose whatever lifestyle they seek to lead. But it is also equally important to understand that a human’s right to choice is not boundless in the sense that they can do anything they want as they please. This is where the government’s role come into play – to regulate citizen’s misbehavior by means of enacting laws. Moreover, the government’s role also overrides freedom of choice when the individual is unable to make a wise decision for themselves, which in this case, refer to the children under the age of 12. Obviously, it is simply unreasonable to expect that children, whose impressionable minds have yet to fully develop, are capable of making informed decisions that could bring immense drawbacks to their health and inevitably influence their personal growth and development. This is why there are existing laws seeing to it that underage minors are banned from undertaking decisions that lead to adverse and life-changing consequences, such as gambling, sex, and alcohol-drinking. Under this law, the government is essentially shielding children, who are none other than the future pillars of society, from unnecessary health risks, while also minimizing the burden of society in terms of medical expenditure.

Opponents may assert that an enactment of such a ban is ineffective since children can simply delegate the act of soft drink purchase to adults and therefore be able to consume them anyway, while at the same time, impractical since the government is simply unable to monitor each and every purchase of soft drink in Hong Kong. However, the fact of the matter is, though there is a likelihood in which children can exploit relevant legal loopholes and the government is not always present to fully enforce the law, there are not sufficient grounds as to why there should not be a ban. In fact, if this belief is to be taken to its logical conclusion, all laws should then be completely abandoned, since it is humanly impossible to detect the happenings of all crimes anyway. At the end of the day, the key to ensuring the efficacy of any kind ban, including this one, is the increasing of the level of enforcement and the severity of the punishment, all of which enhances its deterrence effect.

If the alarming problem of obesity among our youth is any indication, it is high time that the government took swift actions to deal with this social evil for the sake of our children. Only by means of legislation can such the issue be mitigated, if not eradicated.

Chris Wong