California targets teens with proposals on Gatorade sales, metal baseball bats
California legislators are targeting teenagers with a slew of new bills, and that is prompting criticism that lawmakers are trying to create a "nanny state."
Among the subjects: barring high school students from buying Gatorade on campus, banning metal bats from their baseball games, making it illegal for adolescents to have themselves "branded" with a hot iron.
Some lawmakers also want to outlaw nipple piercings for teenagers, and prohibit them from snowboarding and skiing without a helmet or reentering a football game too quickly after taking a hard hit to the head.
Critics are asking whether lawmakers should find better ways to spend their time than pondering how to keep teens in check — like dealing with high unemployment or resolving the budget crisis.
"This is a nanny state that tells you what you can eat, what you can drink, what you have to wear during your outdoor recreation," said state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks). "I believe it's the parents' responsibility to decide what is best for their children. It is arrogance having government officials telling you, 'You're not smart enough, so we're going to tell you what is right and wrong for you.' "
Some teenagers also think state lawmakers are going too far. "It's like they are trying to control our lives for us," said Eddie Muro, the 17-year-old senior class president at Big Bear High School. "If a kid is 17, he can sign up for the Marines to fight for his country, but people are deciding what he can drink at school? It's ridiculous."
With budget crises blocking new spending programs and entrenched interests ready to fight proposals that regulate adult behavior, teens have become a ready target for the legislators' desire to address problems that distress their constituents.
Supporters of the bills have some influential voices on their side. Among them is TV talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw, who recently told his national audience that he supports the California proposal to require helmets for snowboarding kids.
--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: California legislators are considering a three-year moratorium on the use of metal bats in high school
Credit: Los Angeles Times
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