Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Let's put useful labels on some real dangers

Warning: Reading this will steal minutes of your life

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When I was a kid, nobody put warnings on anything.

As a result, we dropped like flies, because we rode around on our bikes without wearing helmets while supergluing our fingers together, licking nine-volt batteries, sharing Orange Crush bottles, burning our siblings' eyeballs out with a magnifying glass and plotting to blow up the school toilets with fireworks.

The point is, we didn't know any better, so we were as happy as clams. It was a wonderful time to be alive. We weren't idiots; it's just that we didn't have a clue the stuff we were doing was potentially lethal, because the government didn't care enough to put helpful warnings on everything.

But then someone got the idea to slap graphic warning labels on cigarettes on the grounds they will kill you if you actually smoke them. That seemed to satisfy everyone for quite a while, but apparently not anymore.

This week, a major Canadian doctors' group stole a page from the anti-smoking forces and recommended the same graphic warnings you find on cigarette packs be slapped on junk foods to prevent us from eating our way to early graves.

For example, the Ontario Medical Association displayed a mock takeout pizza box sporting the image of a slimy organ and a warning that shoving too many slices in your cake-hole could result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Being the size of a major kitchen appliance, it is difficult for me to argue against putting scary warnings on high-fat foods with little nutritional value. So I won't. But if we are going to do this, why stop with cigarettes and junk food? There are lots of other things that need warning labels to protect us from ourselves, such as...

1) Those skinny jeans you are trying to squeeze into: "Warning: These pants will make your butt look bigger than a recreational vehicle."

2) Your daughter before she goes on a date: "Warning: This young woman must be returned to her father's house before midnight. Failure to do so could drastically reduce your lifespan, because her dad will kill you. Handle with extreme caution, as she will be dusted for fingerprints when she gets home."

3) The door to your daughter's room: "Warning: Do not enter! This room is hazardous because it is packed from floor to ceiling with discarded clothing, empty pizza boxes, shredded fashion magazines and Justin Bieber CDs. Pointing this out to your daughter will result in her shrieking 'YOU'VE RUINED MY LIFE!!!' and slamming the door in your face."

4) Your daughter's clothing: "Warning: This skirt is way too short. There is no (bad word) way you are wearing this out of the house. Return to your room and put on a nice pair of corduroys. And no, you may not get a tattoo."

5) Every reality-TV program: "Warning: This show, especially if it stars someone named Snooki, contains no educational value. Consuming it will destroy brain cells you need for other vital activities, such as finding your car keys or remembering how to eat with a fork."

6) Household appliances: "Warning: Do you want to go through life with a hook for a hand? No, you do not. So please, do NOT stick your hand in this blender while it is in operation, even if you have just dropped your new Rolex watch into it while making a breakfast smoothie."

7) The freshly sharpened pencils you got in first grade: "Warning: This pencil is really, really sharp. Do not stick it up your nose. We're not kidding. Seriously, don't... OK, swell, now you've got blood pouring all over your desk. Go to the restroom and clean up. Try not to stick your tongue in the hot-air hand dryer."

8) Boring people you meet at parties: "Warning: Avoid me at all costs. I am extremely opinionated. There is zero chance I will remember your name, because I love to hear myself drone on and on and... "

9) Politicians: "Warning: Believe me at your own risk. The truth? You can't handle the truth!"

10) Potential girlfriends: "Warning: Date with Extreme Caution. Medical research indicates I will break your heart."

11) The TV set your wife wants to buy: "Warning: This TV is way too small for a guy like you. It is a medical fact that small TVs are linked to that embarrassing condition that happens to older guys that they refuse to talk about."

12) Toupées: "Warning: This does not look like real hair. Not even a little bit. If you wear this, it will look like a small woodland creature crawled on top of your head and died."

13) Flashy red sports cars: "Warning: This car will not compensate for all of your obvious shortcomings."

14) Popular music: "Warning: This song contains overt sexual references and more violence than a prison riot. It will cause you to bleed from the ears, but your kids are going to love it."

15) Body sprays targeted at impressionable guys: "Warning: This product will not make you irresistible to women. It WILL make you smell like old sweat socks that have been buried under a chicken coop on a hot day."

16) This column: "Warning: The warnings in today's column will not help you live forever. It will just feel like it."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2012 A2

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