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Sneaky Snack Sales
Junk Food Everywhere

Pickup Paint, Lumber and Candy all at once.
Pickup Paint, Lumber and Candy all at the same time.

Everywhere I turn, companies are selling junk food. 

Remember when gas stations just sold gas? Only stations that were called "truck stops" had food or other items. Now they have aisles of snacks, rows of drink coolers and hot food nearly every hour of the day or night. Every time you fill up your car is another opportunity to grab a few hundred extra calories.

Hardware stores saw how profitable food was and decided to get into the action. Go into any big hardware chain store and look around. Instead of pocket tools and batteries at checkout, you'll see snack racks and soda.

When I went to buy paper and toner at the office supply store, I saw they had become food pushers. There was a big rack with high-calorie sweets and salty snack foods that I had to walk around when I went to pay.

Discount and dollar stores added candy in fancy containers that you can give as gifts, with convenient options priced to grab and go when you're being rung up. 

Department stores have had food in them for decades, but it used to be in a restaurant that had fruit and vegetables on the menu. Today many offer nothing but pizza, soda and even more junk food at every register. Fresh fruit and vegetables quit being served years ago.

The same is true of chain pharmacies and drugstores. In 2014 CVS Pharmacy made national news when they stopped selling cigarettes. Their intent was to be taken seriously as a health care company. It was a huge step in the right direction, but they still have baskets of junk food staring back at you as you wait in line to buy your goods.

In one day of errands, I made six stops. I gassed up my car, grabbed some paper, bought a shirt, picked up a hammer, filled a prescription and got some wrapping paper. I never once stepped into a grocery store, yet every single place I went to had chips, candies, cookies and soda tempting me at the register.

It's time big companies started exercising a little corporate responsibility. Two out of every three Americans are either overweight or obese. We really don't need access to more food. I understand it's easy to stock racks near a register with empty calories, but it's killing us.

We've dealt with a problem like this before and been successful. In 1965, the first year the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) started keeping records on smoking, 42.4% of Americans smoked.

Laws were put into place that made it mandatory for TV networks to show one antismoking ad for every cigarette commercial that aired. That strategy was so successful at reducing smoking, that eventually the cigarette companies decided it was better to stop all TV advertising, than try to hide the dangers of their product in television ads.

Access to cigarettes was the next step. Vending machines that sold cigarettes to anyone with money were taken out of public places and moved to adult-only venues. Laws requiring an ID before purchase were enforced and over time, more and more businesses quit selling them. In 2013, only 17.8% of adults now smoke, a 50% reduction.

It would be great if we could apply the same types of controls to junk food. For every ad showing happy people eating chips, we have an ad that shows how too much can lead to obesity, heart attacks and stroke. Whenever a candy bar is advertised giving someone energy, we explain how it also spikes blood sugar, rots teeth and can put you in the grave years sooner.

Just like cigarettes, we should also limit access to junk food. You should need a special license to put it at the register. The only problem is that it would reduce corporate profits.

Instead of making companies explain why it's OK to sell products that harm us, the argument gets turned around. People scream we want to expand the "nanny state" and that any action to restrict what they're peddling is an attack on their freedom or liberties.

Take Action

To get meaningful reform, we're going to have to hit corporations in the wallet. You've got to reduce your exposure to the junk. When you buy gas, pay at the pump. Go to the hardware store that doesn't carry chips at the register. Use the pharmacy that doesn't sell candy when you checkout. If there aren't good local options, purchase your products online.

These companies absolutely have the right to sell products that are bad for you. We absolutely have the right to take our business elsewhere. Quit giving your money to companies that prey off your health.

Don't give up! There may not be enough of us to make a change in what companies try to sell, but if you take steps to reduce your exposure, YOU will see a change in yourself.

Willpower is a limited resource. Every time you say no, you're more likely to say yes later on. Keep walking into businesses that push junk and it gets increasingly hard to resist. By limiting your exposure to those temptations, you'll save money and live a healthier life. Do it because you're worth it.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.