Scott Dailey: Get Ready for the War on Sugar

“Excuse me, sir, could you buy me an Orange Crush?” “Sorry, kid. I could go to jail for that.”

Below is Scott Dailey’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal.

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Get Ready for the War on Sugar
By Scott Dailey
February 23, 2012, Wall Street Journal

A team of scientists from the University of California-San Francisco recently published a paper contending that sugar was toxic and addictive, and that it should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle this month, one of the scientists said that the government should “get off its ass” and do something.

Before you say, “Good luck with that,” either about stamping out sugar or getting the government off its derrière, consider that the good scientists might be right. (Not everyone agrees; in the Chronicle, the American Manufacturers of Really Sugary Soft Drinks or whatever they call themselves said the UCSF people were full of baloney.)

But, really. What if sugar is the source of epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes and bad breath? What if the only way to get it under control is to tax it heavily, restrict its advertising and keep it away from kids—and all those obese grown-ups out there, too?

We’ll be in for some big changes.

For starters, your local saloon will get a lot busier. Imagine striding out of the office at 5 p.m. with one of your co-workers.

“Hey, Mike, whaddya say we pop over to Joe’s Tavern for a Hershey bar?”

“Sounds good, Bob. Make mine Milk Duds.”

And think of the reaction among our sugar-addicted offspring. Outside convenience stores, 8-year-olds will be elbowing for position with teenagers busy hustling adults for beer.

“Excuse me, sir, could you buy me an Orange Crush?”

“Sorry, kid. I could go to jail for that.”

“Aw, pleeeease? I’ll mow your lawn . . . “

As parents, we’ll need be to especially vigilant. First, we’ll have to clear out the liquor cabinet so we can lock up the sugar and baking supplies. Then we’ll need to be on the alert so our kids don’t circumvent our most conscientious efforts.

If your daughter hosts a slumber party, you’ll need to sleep with one ear open. If you hear giggling from the kitchen at 2 a.m., be ready to sit up in bed and holler, “You girls better not be baking cookies down there!”

Like other attempts to control vice, this one will succeed mainly in driving it underground. Alongside shadowy drug dealers hanging around playgrounds and recreation centers, we’ll see a new breed of unsavory characters surreptitiously displaying their wares inside their trench coats.

“Psst! Hey, kid—over here. I got Jujubes, I got Good ‘n’ Plenty, I got Mr. Goodbars—whatever you need.”

As with any other black-market item, prices will soar. Kids will start stealing just to get a fix.

“Jennifer, what are you doing in my purse? Is that a 10-dollar bill? Tell the truth, young lady. Is that for a candy bar?”

The sugar war will also give rise to a new street language designed to keep parents and police in the dark. Multicolored Skittles will become “rainbows.” Milk chocolate will be shortened to sound more innocent.

“Charlie, what are you doing in there?”

“Nothing, Mom. Just having some milk.”

New meaning will also be ascribed to song lyrics. Old hits like the swing-era tune “Candy” and the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” will enjoy revivals as kids speculate on their hidden significance. Ultimately, warning labels may be required.

Back in 1967, the Doors released the song “The Crystal Ship.” Teenagers surmised it was about a sugar cube laced with LSD. Now, after all these years, it turns out it was the sugar that was really dangerous.

Who knew?

Mr. Dailey is a writer in Northern California.

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