Pubdate: Wed, 02 Apr 2003
Source: Scientific American (US)
Copyright: 2003 Scientific American, Inc
Author: Steve Mirsky
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Drug Education)


There Are Burger Joints, And Then There Are Burgers And Joints

The fault, Shakespeare once almost said, lies not in our stars but in our 
stuffing our faces. That sentiment is basically the reasoning behind a 
federal district court judge's January dismissal of a recent lawsuit 
against McDonald's, brought by two obese New York City teenagers who 
claimed that the fast food was at fault for their fat. "Common sense has 
prevailed," read a statement issued by a no doubt relieved McDonald's, 
which had probably contemplated a future where "over 99 billion served" 
would include the word "subpoenas." "The plaintiffs have alleged that the 
practices of McDonald's in making and selling their products are deceptive 
and that this deception has caused the minors who have consumed McDonald's 
products to injure their health by becoming obese," observed Judge Robert 
W. Sweet in his ruling. In other words, the kids asked, how were we to know 
that a steady diet of hamburgers and french fries was going to make us fat? 
And the judge's response was, well, they should know and they therefore 
"cannot blame McDonald's if they, nonetheless, choose to satiate their 
appetite with a surfeit of supersized McDonald's products."

Sweet clearly came down on the side of personal responsibility, a stance he 
has long taken. "In the interest of consistency and integrity," he wrote in 
a footnote, "it should be noted that the author of this opinion publicly 
opposed the criminalization of drugs.... This belief is based upon the 
notion that, as long as consumers have adequate knowledge about even 
harmful substances, they should be entitled to purchase them, and that the 
issue should be one of health, not the criminal law."

Which brings us to Item Two, namely, the current odd ad campaign sponsored 
by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. My favorite in this series 
of public-service spots features two teenage boys smoking marijuana in the 
den of what appears to be an upper-middle-class home. After some insipid 
pot-inspired conversation, one dumb kid finds a handgun. The other dumb kid 
says, "Cool," and asks if it's loaded. The first dumb kid points the gun at 
the second, says, "No," and pulls the trigger. We hear a gunshot as the 
screen goes dark and then read the following: "Marijuana can distort your 
sense of reality. Harmless?"

This is an antidrug commercial? Because it sure looks to me like an antigun 
commercial. I grew up in a house with a rifle, which was dismantled and in 
a locked case, and I know that no card-carrying member of the National 
Rifle Association would keep a handgun loaded and easily accessible, 
especially in a home with children. Furthermore, I put forth the 
proposition that I would much rather find myself in a room full of stoned 
teenagers without guns than in a room full of straight teenagers carrying 
loaded weapons. (I actually did the first part of this experiment in the 
1970s, but I categorically refuse to do the second part, unless the 
teenagers in question are in boot camp at Parris Island.)

Now, before I get audited, no one is suggesting that teenagers use drugs, 
just as no one is suggesting that they drink beer until they puke, except 
for companies that do extensive advertising to college kids, most of whom 
are below the legal drinking age. But I digress. Why not let teenagers know 
about the dangers of drug use in a way that would actually get their attention?

For example, a TV commercial that might very well drive many teenage boys 
away from marijuana could say: "Smoking a lot of pot may give men breasts 
worthy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue." I can envision another 
commercial that ends with a sober guy telling his stoned buddy, "Look, 
there's not enough dope in the world to get her to sleep with you." And 
finally, how about one in which two fat stoners sue their dealer because 
the munchies made them eat too much McDonald's?
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