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Ban backlash: U.S. politicians to prohibit bans on Happy Meal toys

Photographs of a MacDonalds Happy Meal and the toy that comes with it.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

San Francisco's ban on distributing free toys with unhealthy fast-food meals has prompted politicians in other states to take action.

No, they're not following suit. Rather, lawmakers in Arizona and Florida are pushing to ban such bans.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports legislators in the two states are seeking to prohibit cities and counties from limiting the ability of restaurants to offer promotions, including toys and other incentives, such as contests, admission tickets, coupons and trading cards.

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Last month, Arizona lawmakers gave preliminary approval of such a bill.

"We wanted to be proactive in making sure it didn't take place here," Steve Chucri, president of the Arizona Restaurant Association, which lobbied for the bill, told the Chronicle. "To arbitrarily say a toy in a Happy Meal or crayons given to a child in a restaurant is going to predestine them to only having fatty foods is laughable."

In November, San Francisco voted to become the first major city to ban restaurants from giving out free toys with meals that don't meet certain nutritional guidelines. Supporters say the ban is a significant strike against childhood obesity, while others argue the government should butt out.

"Government needs to stay out of the way of free enterprise," Arizona lawmaker Jim Weiers told the East Vally Tribune last month. "Every business has the right to do something as long as it [is]not actually hurting anyone else."

He suggested parents are the ones ultimately responsible for childhood obesity.

What do you think? Should government protect the right of businesses to offer incentives, even on unhealthy fast-food meals?

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