Obesity, Michelle Obama, & Community-Empowered Change

April 05, 2011 7:08 AM by ariyahd

Ariyah DeSouza, Associate Recruitment Marketing Manager:

 

The CDC reports that today nearly one in three American children ages 6 to 19 are overweight, while one in five are obese. The childhood obesity rate tripled between 1980 and 1999, creating an epidemic and a generation of people with shorter life spans than their parents.

Michelle Obama has called childhood obesity both a health and an economic issue for communities that “can drastically alter the economic landscape of our cities and towns for generations to come." She believes everyone must work together to abolish this epidemic. If we’ve learned something from her husband’s term, it’s that a leader can’t drag whole communities into change unless they’re up for it. You cannot empower others; people empower themselves.

You can, however, through your leadership provide people the support they need. The National League of Cities (NLC) has been working with the first lady in supporting municipal officials’ adoption of a holistic solution to childhood obesity. Obama’s Let’s Move! program aims to reduce our nation’s childhood obesity rates within a generation through the reform of behavioral and environmental factors.

Cities and towns electing to participate in the initiative must choose at least one action to take in the following 12 months in each of these four areas:

1. helping parents make healthy family choices
2. creating healthy schools
3. providing access to healthy and affordable food
4. promoting physical activity

Participating officials will submit an end-of-year report describing their city’s or town’s actions. These communities will be recognized on the Let’s Move! website, and mayors may participate in conference calls and events with federal staff to share ideas and challenges.

The Let’s Move! website includes a blog, facts for raising healthier kids, recommendations for eating healthy and getting active, and steps to taking action. Officials can visit the US Department of Health & Human Services website to sign up.

As a collective, we need long-term, strategic solutions to resolve a problem of this scope and endurance. I appreciate the education and tools the White House is giving businesses, communities, schools and parents to address childhood obesity.

The investments recommended by this campaign might seem too simple or minor – but not if you understand their long-term necessity. For example, as Obama puts it, “By building more sidewalks, you could help kids get healthier today and reduce health costs and budget strain tomorrow. By investing in more nutritious school lunches or more P.E. time, you can take steps that will lead to a healthier, more productive workforce in the future.”

The first lady cited statistics. In the ten cities with the nation’s highest obesity rates, the direct costs connected with obesity and related diseases are $50 million per 100,000 residents. If these ten cities reduced their obesity rates to the national average, they together would save $500 million in healthcare costs every year.

Fortunately, more than 500 cities have decided to take charge and have signed up as Let’s Move Cities and Towns.

Their investments today should pasy off for US employers tomorrow. Obese children are likely to turn into obese adults. Overweight and obese adult workers today miss 39 million work days and cost employers $13 billion in healthcare annually. And today’s obese children affect today’s workforces. Studies show that obese children are less healthy and miss far more days of school on average. For the parents of those kids, that can mean more tardiness, more early departures from work and higher absenteeism to stay home to care for these kids.

Some employers might prefer to operate in locations where citizens are healthier, given higher worker productivity and lower health costs. The California Department of Health Services reported nearly $25 billion in private and public medical services, lost productivity, and workers' compensation in one year alone, attributing these costs to the 59% of California adults who are obese or overweight. In a 2004 article in the Los Angeles Times, Susan Foerster, chief of cancer prevention and nutrition for the California Department of Health Services, cited “car-dominated or unsafe neighborhoods and limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables” as possible sources of the state's surge in obesity. She also stated that “it's not a matter of simply pushing away from the table or getting up off the couch—the increase in rates over time has been a function of changed lifestyles and changed environment.”

No one disputes that Let's Move! addresses some key issues with long-term strategies. A major concern that many obesity experts and medical groups have raised, however, is that the initiative doesn't treat kids who are already obese – a staggering 20% of American children ages 6 to 19. Current treatment options are rarely reimbursed through insurance and few people have access to them, especially minority and lower-income families whose children are more likely to be impacted by obesity.  Ideally, our government would advance solutions for both treatment and prevention.

If you want to engage in the movement on a fun level, check out the Let’s Move! Facebook page.


National Nutrition Month: Color Guide and Tips to Eat Right with Color

March 14, 2011 5:04 PM by janec

Jane Connell, MS, RD, Nutrition Coach:

 

Each March, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) celebrates National Nutrition Month®, and this year's theme, "Eat Right with Color," encourages parents to take time to make sure their children are getting all of the nutrients they need to feel well and be well - emotionally, mentally, and physically. One of the biggest challenges for us as parents is to meet their (and our) nutritional needs by preparing tasty, healthy, real food for our families in the small amounts of time we have available to us each day.  We need a get-real game plan.  The good news is that shopping, cooking and eating healthfully have just gotten easier with assistance from www.kidseatright.org, a new website from ADA and its Foundation.  Here are a few tips to help us with a get-real game plan to “eat right with color”. 


Get real.  First and foremost, get your color from real foods, not artificially colored foods. If you’re feeling powerless to control what you eat, there’s good reason according to David Kessler, MD, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.  “When food is highly processed and loaded and layered with sugar, salt, and fat, it becomes so stimulating that it hijacks the brain – and our behavior.”

Get variety. At the produce store/section, experiment by adding one fruit or vegetable that’s different than your usual pick.  Not sure what to do with it?  www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov provides tips on how to select, store, and prepare fruits & veggies, including recipes and tips for stretching your food budget.

Get cooking.  It’s easier to find recipes for your ingredients than the other way around.  If you go to the store, and the recipe ingredients on your shopping list are not available, don’t look good, or are over-priced, at that point you’re in a pickle.  On the other hand, if you go to the market and buy whatever fresh ingredients look best at a decent price, then figure out how to cook them, you’re actually going to end up with less stress-  and a much better meal.  Mark Bittman, cookbook author and New York Times columnist sometimes jokes that there are only nine recipes in the world, but he says there’s a lot of truth to that.  “The same patterns crop up over and over again.  If you cook a piece of chicken with ginger, garlic, and scallions, you get a Chinese flavor.  Use lime and cilantro, you have Mexican.  Parmesan and oregano?  Italian.  You can apply these flavor patterns to almost everything – fish, broccoli, tofu, whatever.  Healthy cooking is often just a matter of riffing on well-worn little flavor combos.  It’s like multiplication: not hard at all once you learn it.”

Get color.  Challenge your child (or yourself) to put one item of each color in the cart: white cauliflower, blue blueberries, orange carrots, green spinach, etc.  Go to www.epicurious.com and use the interactive map to see what's in season in your area, plus find ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips.  Brighten up your plate with the quick color guide below.

 

Color Guide

Green produce indicates antioxidant potential and may help promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime
Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach

Orange and deep yellow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity, and reduce the risk of some cancers.

Fruits: apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, papaya, peach and pineapple
Vegetables: carrots, yellow pepper, yellow corn and sweet potatoes

Purple and blue options may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks.

Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins
Vegetables: eggplant, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potato

Red indicates produce that may help maintain a healthy heart, vision, immunity and may reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grape fruit, red grapes and watermelon
Vegetables: beets, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes

White, tan and brown foods sometimes contain nutrients that may promote heart health and reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: banana, brown pear, dates and white peaches
Vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, turnips, white-fleshed potato and white corn

For more information on how to "Eat Right with Color," visit ADA's National Nutrition Month website for a variety of helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources.


Junk Food Wars: A Mom’s Battle for Mindfulness

January 03, 2011 12:38 PM by lauraj

Laura Johnson, Lead Health Educator, Weight Management:

 

Is it possible for parents to feed children optimum nutrition a majority of the time? What happens if parents are not on the same page nutrition-wise? If one parent is encouraging the child to snack on lowfat cheese and whole grain crackers while the other is showcasing a bag of chips with its bright and glossy packaging, which item is the child most likely to choose? I found myself in this situation last winter when my husband and I took our two kids, ages 4 and 7, to Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA to enjoy some fresh fallen snow. The trip was a grand success, until we landed at a gas station in Wenatchee on our drive home.

We had eaten a late breakfast that morning, but three hours had passed and our kids were hungry again. I had apples and oranges in the car, in addition to some dry roasted nuts, left over from the beginning of the trip. I assumed we could all just snack on these items until we got home and then have an early dinner. My husband, however, had a different idea.

The kids were lured into the convenience store at the gas station with my husband’s promises of “treats.” I could only imagine what they might purchase. I went along inside hoping to coax my kids into picking out something at least somewhat healthy: pretzels, some dried fruit, maybe a mozzarella cheese stick from the dairy case, or carton of chocolate milk, which would offer nutrition while satisfying the desire for a "treat." Again, my husband had other plans. My kids wandered towards the chip and candy aisle, and then towards the cracker display. Once again, I thought I could take the reins on the “snack quest” and steer my kids into making some healthier choices. No such luck. Before I could take on any authority my husband was saying OK to the Doritos, Cheetos, and Nutter Butter cookies! My husband chose some beef jerky and dry roasted peanuts; items with some redeeming qualities. I was horrified at the thought of letting my kids eat the items they had self-selected. At the very least, I decided I had to put some limits on how much they would be allowed to eat.

With smiles on their faces my kids gladly tore into the chips and cookies. After about 5-8 minutes of munching, I deemed it time to close up the bags to save some for later. To my good fortune my husband stayed quiet while I ruled over food quantity.

Most of the time, my husband and I agree on what our children should be eating. For example, we both agree that veggies should be plentiful at dinnertime. Backing each other up in this way sends a clear message to our children about our expectations for them. However, when we are at odds with what we think may be best, rather than having an argument about it on the spot, I have found peace knowing that I can be successful in helping them to limit their portions and teaching them to be mindful about what they are eating and how much is appropriate.

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Katherine Heigl: E-Cigarettes are a 'Fun' Addiction

December 02, 2010 9:46 AM by janicem

Janice Milliman, Quit Coach, Service Delivery:

 

Katherine Heigl is known for her beauty, her starring role on Grey's Anatomy, and most recently, her foray into romantic comedy leads. Unfortunately, she is also known for cigarette smoking, even while signing autographs for kids.

Heigl tried to quit the habit several times using patches, nicotine gum, and Chantix. Now she's using the electronic cigarette (e-cig) as a replacement and quitting aid. Her main motivation to quit? A newly adopted beautiful daughter. "The one thing I would say to my kid is, "It's not just that it's bad for you. Do you want to spend the rest of your life fighting a stupid addiction to a stupid thing that doesn't even really give you a good buzz?'"

On The Late Show with David Letterman she contradicts the "stupid addiction" comment and talks about how much safer the e-cigs are for her health, and of those around her. When Letterman asks if she's addicted to the device, she says, "Oh yea, I'm totally addicted... But it's not bad for you, so it's a fun addiction."

While e-cig safety is unproven and controversial, Heigl is still exposing her daughter to the smoking behavior.

In the November/December 2010 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, Editor Michael O'Donnell addresses some of the reasons why his brother, and others like him, start smoking in the first place. "...kids who have at least one parent who smokes when the kids are 12 or younger are 360 times more likely to smoke than kids whose parents do not." 360 times! A shocking statistic.

Stress is reportedly Heigl's biggest trigger for smoking, which is very common among smokers. I hope, in addition to the e-cig, that Heigl has found other productive ways of managing stress. E-cigs, just like cigarettes, don't actually reduce stress. Cigarettes mask, distract, and delay our emotional response during times of stress. Unfortunately, if there aren't other stress management strategies, the stress is never truly addressed and so quickly returns.

Quitting is very difficult for most people, so I give Heigl kudos for all the times she tried, for not giving up, and for her success. As a mother I can identify with Heigl wanting to protect her daughter's health and be a positive role model.

Unfortunately, however, her daughter may not understand or differentiate a real cigarette from the e-cig. She will understand the pattern of mommy putting a smoking object up to her mouth when she looks upset. Kids not only learn how to manage stress through adult role models, unfortunately, they also learn how to smoke.


Holiday Joy with Less Stress

November 01, 2010 8:53 AM by beths

Beth Shepard, MS, Mind & Body Clinical Content Development Team:

 

For many people, the joy of year-end holidays is overshadowed by the expectation of stress — the shopping, concerts, parties, food, and excessive spending. Sound familiar? What would happen if you opted out of the holiday rush this year and chose instead to be intentional about having a peaceful, enjoyable holiday season?

Years ago, when my kids were toddlers, everyone wanted to see them during the holidays. We alternated spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family and my in-laws, who live 6 hours away. After a few years, we grew weary of fighting snow in the mountain passes, caring for cranky, sick children on a long car trip, and just feeling rushed.

For the last 8 years or so, we’ve celebrated the holidays in our own home, with no regrets. We invite others to join us ― sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. Either way, we celebrate without the stress of packing up and spending two whole days of our limited vacation time on the road.

We also used to hop from one holiday event to another, to another, all in the same day. Not anymore — the stress and exhaustion simply isn’t worth it. A couple of years ago, when our children’s piano recital fell on the same day as my girlfriends’ annual Christmas dinner, I declined the dinner. They suggested I come to the dinner after the recital, but I said, “No, thank you.” And life went on, and they’re still my friends.

Last year, I experienced cookie drama. My girlfriends have insisted on doing a cookie exchange for the past several years, and I’ve never been a willing participant. I rarely carve out time for cookie-baking. And when I do, my family gets so excited – I don’t like to say, “Oh, by the way, these aren’t for you.” Plus, whenever I commit to making twelve dozen cookies, I burn myself, I burn the cookies, the cookie press fails, or something else goes awry, and I end up with really sad-looking cookies at midnight the night before the party.

So I let my friends know in advance this year that I was opting out of the cookie exchange in an effort to reduce the stress in my life. Some friends said, “Bah humbug,” but two others joined me in politely declining. It seems I wasn’t the only one who had been supplying cookies out of obligation rather than good cheer. Despite the fact that three of us didn’t bring cookies, the party still was fun, and there were no hard feelings ― just some good-natured ribbing.

It’s easy to over-commit and get stressed out during the holidays because of what we think other people expect of us. I’ve learned that most people respond quite well when I honor my values and priorities. Our family’s decisions, while meeting with light resistance, have been respected. And we have more energy to focus on what we value most ― our health, our faith, and spending time relaxing together during the holidays.


The Power of Peer Influence: What We Can Learn from Across the Pond

October 19, 2010 10:13 AM by aimees

Aimee Schiefelbein, Quit Coach, Service Delivery:

 

Let's face it, teens are a vulnerable population. They aren't yet mature enough to see the long term impact of some of their decisions, yet they are old enough to make them. I have talked with many long-time smokers who reflect back on their very first cigarette with regret saying, "I wish I knew then what I know now about smoking." Many participants say they started as a teenager to look cool or fit in to a social group. At the time they never thought they would end up 20 to sometimes 40 years later with health or financial problems as a result of trying one cigarette. I can relate. When I was a teenager I knew smoking wasn't good for me but I didn't have the maturity to understand just how powerful this addiction was and how hard it would be to quit. I lived for the moment and decided to try smoking in order to fit in with my friends. As far as I was concerned I was invincible and health problems let alone dying was reserved for "old people."

It is difficult (although not impossible!) to get teenagers to stop smoking once they start because of some of the things I just mentioned. I believe one of the best ways to help a teenager stop smoking is to prevent them from ever starting to begin with. As a teenager the most effective thing to get me to stop would have been to find out it was uncool or unacceptable within my peer group. Sure parents or teachers could have made an impact by being supportive and warning me of the dangers of smoking, but honestly it probably would have gone in one ear and out the other. At that age the most direct route to get me to stop smoking would have had to come from my peer group. I believe this is the case for many teenagers.

I recently read an article about a new teen smoking prevention program in England and Wales. The program is based in schools and it works by identifying and training students to meet the challenge of preventing teen smoking by influencing friends and classmates. It has already proven successful for some teens. While it's too soon to tell whether this can be a long-term solution, many schools elsewhere in the UK are pleased with the success and are interested in starting the program in their school.

I remain hopeful because this approach makes sense to me. Teens decide what to wear, what music is in, and these days what electronics are cool within their peer groups and classmates. Why wouldn't they be impacted by what their peer groups thought of smoking? It will be interesting to see the significance of this program long term.  If we can prevent teens from ever starting, imagine the impact years later to the health of our future adult population.


Mom Smoked While She Was Pregnant: a Daughter's Story

September 30, 2010 6:48 AM by aimees

Aimee Schiefelbein, Quit Coach, Service Delivery:

 

Most people in my personal life know I work as a tobacco Quit Coach. I am often the person that gets to hear the stories of triumph and struggle of those who want to quit smoking. Sometimes friends or family come to me in exasperation because they really want to help someone else quit but have no idea how to communicate their support effectively. It was during one of these discussions with a non-smoking friend (I will call her Kay) that I learned a little bit more about her and got permission to share her story. Kay disclosed  to me that her mother was actively trying to quit and she wanted to find out from me how to best support her in this process. We had a discussion about possible ways she could bring this up with her mother...but what really struck me was what Kay disclosed to me a week later about how that conversation went.

Kay confessed that the conversation with her mother took a turn towards a disclosure that took a lot of strength and bravery on her mother's part. She confessed that she smoked for the duration of her pregnancy with Kay over 30 years ago. Back in those days smoking was more acceptable and not as much was known about smoking and the health impact to mother and baby. At that time her mother thought that because Kay came out relatively okay (with all ten fingers and toes and cute as ever) that everything was okay and she effectively "dodged a bullet." What she later learned in the process of preparing to quit and doing research on smoking was that smoking during and after pregnancy could potentially have had an even greater consequence on Kay's development. Her mother tearfully recalled the guilt she felt for not having the knowledge or tools to quit during her pregnancy or afterwards. Fortunately in the end, this conversation turned out to be a point of connection for Kay and her mother and it brought them both empathy and understanding for each other. Kay shared with me that she was able to reassure her mother that what's most important was that she was quitting now. I thought she handled this conversation very well, because quitting is a process and it often requires looking forward and not backwards and getting caught in guilt.

That got me thinking...Many pregnant smokers I speak with today know some of the health consequences of smoking during pregnancy. Smoking can be a leading cause of low birth weight, miscarriage, premature birth, and an increase in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Quitting smoking can dramatically reduce the risk of these complications. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, finds the children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy, particularly boys, had a higher risk of poorer coordination and physical control later in life. The results indicate smoking may impact the development of the brain of the fetus.

I thought about Kay's story as I read this study. I thought about how little we knew 30 years ago and how much more we know now. Every year more evidence is uncovered linking smoking to disease and complications for both mother and baby. What will they uncover next?

For me, the important piece to remember in Kay's story is this: it is never too late to quit. Any cigarette not smoked is less harm done. It's important for smokers to be aware of the health impact of smoking and not to let it bog them down so that they can't move forward and take the first step towards quitting. Women and their babies deserve to be healthy, which is why at Free & Clear we train Quit Coaches in how to address such sensitive issues and be an informed source of support to our pregnant callers. If you're ready to call, we're ready to help.


Mom Celebrates Junk Food-Free Classroom

August 31, 2010 12:32 PM by sandik

Sandi Kaplan, Associate Director, Clinical Development & Support:

 

My kids started school today. Along with their school supplies, I arrived in their classrooms with bags full of gluten-free junk food – refined crackers, pretzels, cookies and cupcakes. Not a gram of fiber or a vitamin in sight!
Both of my kids have celiac disease. I am used to stocking their classrooms so their teachers can pull out gluten free options when there is a birthday celebration or one of the many other occasions when treats are provided.

Imagine my amazement when my son’s classroom teacher peeked into the bags and said: “We don’t need any of that. Our classroom is a junk food-free zone and we are working towards a junk food-free school”. She explained that all of the options that are provided in her classroom will be naturally gluten free because they are fruits, vegetables, plain yogurt and legumes like edamame and black beans. The kids cook often and make foods like fruit smoothies, salsas, a variety of salads, veggie dishes and bean dishes. They learn about nutrition and get excited about healthy food choices.

I asked her what happens on birthdays and other holidays. She explained that she believes that kids need to learn other ways of celebrating. Plenty of celebration with food happens outside of the classroom but she likes to teach kids that celebrating without food is just as fun. So they dance, play games, make music and cheer instead!

Her classroom has been junk food-free for five years and she hopes that the whole school will adopt this policy in the coming year or two. She handed out “healthy snack and lunch ideas” to parents as they dropped off kids and she has recipe books that parents can take home and use to expand their school lunch repertoire. She has experienced some resistance over the years but she has stood firm in her belief that kids that are fed well, learn well and behave well. And she mentioned with a twinkle in her eye that parents very quickly appreciate that effect at home too.

I left smiling. And holding my bags of gluten-free junk. Yes, my kids eat dessert sometimes and we took lots of trips to the local ice cream store this summer. But I also teach my kids how to eat healthfully, and what a great feeling to know that my efforts are being supported in my son's classroom.  My daughter’s teacher welcomed the cupcakes…but we’ll see what we can do to change her mind by the end of the school year, too!


Healthy School Lunches by Cookus Interruptus: Learning and Laughter for Parents and School Staff

August 19, 2010 5:19 AM by sandik

Sandi Kaplan, Associate Director, Clinical Development & Support:

 

I printed out my kids’ school supply lists today. That’s a sure sign that the start of the school year is almost here. And for many children, that means back to school lunches. My kids are still young so I can refuse to purchase school lunches for them and I don’t get much whining.

The truth is that I would love to purchase them school lunches. It would save me time and energy that I often don’t have at the end of the day when I am faced with lunchboxes to nutritiously and creatively fill. But the school lunches are fatty, greasy, salty and sugary. And that combo is not what I want to be feeding my growing kids especially when I am expecting them to be focused and well behaved in the classroom.

There has been plenty of research to support the premise that kids who eat more nutritiously behave better in school. One high school in Appleton, Wisconsin replaced their regular poor-quality school lunches with healthy fresh foods at lunch with water as the main beverage. The changes resulted in improved behavior from the students and zero truancies.

So I was excited to read that a great business called Cookus Interruptus is working on improving school lunches. Cookus Interruptus is part of the recently approved King County “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” grant tasked with developing a whole foods certificate program for school nutrition staff in Washington’s King County. The task force has high hopes that the program will eventually expand across the state.

This fall, Cookus Interruptus will be developing curriculum, planning workshop activities (including hands-on cooking!), creating learning materials, and training workshop teachers. The workshops for school staff will begin in 2011.

Cookus Interruptus produces fun and humorous whole foods cooking videos. Their tagline is “how to cook fresh local organic whole foods with life’s interruptions.” We provide several of their videos for our Mind & Body Program participants on Web Coach.

The best part about the videos is that the food is quick and easy to cook. Or maybe the best part is that they make me laugh out loud. Or actually it might be that the food tastes good (which is not the case with every recipe I try). Anyway, these videos in a nutshell are user friendly entertainment.

I must also mention that the videos take budgets into account and emphasize whole foods that are inexpensive to purchase and prepare.

Watch them with your kids. Or your significant other. Or your coworkers. Then cook the food and imagine that wholesome food being in our children’s school cafeterias. That day is coming and I for one am thrilled!


Meet George Jetson...His Pal, Ciggy?

July 22, 2010 1:58 PM by janicem

Janice Milliman, Quit Coach, Service Delivery

 

Last weekend while watching TV with my 7 year-old son I saw that The Jetsons was on. I changed the channel, somewhat against his wishes, because I was excited to show him what I watched as a child. With his vivid imagination I also thought he'd enjoy the cool technology the Jetsons had (just the other day he talked about inventing a machine that would "make you whatever food you wanted," something Jane Jetson might know something about).

What surprised me most when watching the show was the number of characters who lit up and the frequency with which they smoked. I wasn't concerned about my son being influenced. The education in school and conversations at home help him understand why it's important to avoid tobacco. I guess I had just forgotten how prevalent smoking was in cartoons of my era.

In the 10 minutes or so that my son would "allow" us to watch The Jetsons, three of the main characters smoked a cigar. George Jetson, in the show’s intro, smokes a cigar after getting home from a hard day's work. His whole family greets him. He unwinds in his favorite chair with a cigar, slippers and all. Mr. Spacely, George Jetson's boss, is usually seen smoking a cigar too. He partakes even while in the office, as was common in the 1960s. In the same episode Mr. Cogs, who is Mr. Spacely's boss (George's boss's boss), also enjoys a cigar.

There are certainly more beloved cartoon characters who have lit up a time or two on screen. Tom & Jerry enjoyed a cigar while bonding in one episode. The Cheshire Cat smoked hookah. And then there's Popeye.

In 2006 Turner Broadcasting UK, Boomerang's parent company, planned to review and remove references of smoking from their cartoons in Britain. At that time the Turner Broadcasting U.S. affiliate also planned to review its policies. As a parent I'm probably expected to advocate for censoring deadly habits in children's programming.

Although I don't want my kids to be exposed to negative influences on TV, I think their biggest influence to remain tobacco free is my husband an myself. We choose what our children watch and talk openly about situations that arise that we may not agree with. Fortunately for us in 2010, the children's programs that my kids actually want to watch (no offense, Mr. Jetson) don't involve tobacco at all. So here's a big thanks to Dora, Kai-lan and the Backyardigans for setting a good example all around.



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