To Make Canadians Healthier We Need the Law

A recent study in 43 countries concluded that children in schools where tobacco-free policies were firmly enforced were much less likely to smoke.

However, anti-smoking lessons in classrooms had little impact on smoking rates. Not a surprise. Educational campaigns seeking to change people's behaviour regarding consumption are notoriously unsuccessful, by themselves, whether in terms of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, drugs, or non-nutritious eating.

The claims of education can sometimes be pretty grand. Give individuals knowledge and they'll see the light: from buying securities to positive attitudes to human rights. It's easy to see why so many want education to have such benevolent force. It's much less intrusive than many forms of law (even if provision of the information is mandated), it can be comparatively inexpensive, and it can spring off the power of people to wisely chart their own course based on good civic values and a sense of individual wellbeing.

Alas, reality intrudes. There are many issues with such educational efforts. Here are three.

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