Mechanical Enablers

Childhood Obesity News has been looking at various interventions credited with aiding the cause of smoking cessation, and even some that hope to accomplish that. Smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, overeating, and persistently eating their specific problem foods, can take a toll on people. If a methodology can indeed reduce one of those problems, is it transferable? If not, why not?

One type of ban affects the means of selling the various substances. In the 1960s and ’70s, cigarette machines were everywhere, with no way of restricting a person of any age from depositing their coins. In the 1980s and ’90s, people started giving machines the stink-eye, and they began to disappear. In 2010 the Federal Drug Administration decreed that they could only remain in establishments where no children are ever allowed.

In the area of removing soft drink machines from schools, activists have found that more difficult than it might seem. Paradoxically and sadly, alcohol vending machines are enjoying an upward trend right now, and somehow blockchain technology seems to be the salient factor.

Who can stop them?

Because there is no age requirement connected with food, their machines do not need to be so strictly policed, which is often a societal advantage. Food is not a recognized carcinogen, nor does it inspire people to get rowdy and throw chairs through windows. Even the vilest of junk food does not pose an immediate or noisy threat to society.

Slow, quiet threats can get away with a lot of destruction. In that regard, food and tobacco are similar, because the co-morbidities of those addictions have a lot in common, including stealth. Lacking the more urgent justifications for banning cigarette or alcohol vending machines, getting rid of food machines is a tough sell.

Really, the school system was the only place where resistance to the ascendency of machines ever had a chance. July 2014 was set by the Department of Agriculture as the deadline for getting junk food vending out of schools, at the risk of losing federal funding. Manufacturers adapted, and came up with dedicated vending systems, equipped with extras like refrigeration, that dispense healthier foods than their ancestral brethren. These machines are said to decrease the implied stigma of being a free meal recipient.

Opponents of the free breakfast program believe that some children eat breakfast at home and then again at school, and this contributes to the obesity epidemic. It would be better for huge numbers of kids to be hungry, than for a few to become overweight or obese, or so the thinking goes. Would only a few become overweight? As it turns out, someone has researched that. Many questions arise, and will be looked into.

Urban myth?

People who feel that machines used to sell harmful things should be banned are in favor of official restrictions. Unfortunately, restrictions can always be gotten around, one way or another. As a last resort, a crook can take the risk of violating the law, and write off the fines as a business expense. We need better solutions.

Reportedly, the removal of snack vending machines from schools has resulted in entrepreneurial students showing up like old-time peddlers with backpacks full of goodies to sell to their classmates at a profit.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Healthy Vending Machines in Schools,”
Photo credit: sylvarThad Zajdowicz on Visualhunt/CC BY

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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