Let's start with the fact, largely and conveniently ignored by most nannies including those with advanced degrees, that the very foundation of toxicology (first enunciated by Paracelsus, the father of toxicology) is "the dose makes the poison." California — The Nanny State that Never Sleeps

A few years ago, we ordered a fine saltwater fishing reel from a fine specialty sporting goods purveyor in California.  It arrived in fine condition, in a fine box listing attributes that would turn the angler into a fisherperson of superhuman ability.

The box, however, was marred by a hideous, scary sticker warning that the product therein contained, by the findings of the most oppressive nanny state in the history of the world (the aforementioned California), could cause cancer to ourselves, our loved ones and our unborn, yea unto generations.

A fishing reel?  Well, no, not the reel itself, but the oil the manufacturer had diligently but sparingly applied so as to improve the efficiency of precision machined parts and bearings.

That warning, and literally millions of others like it, resulted from California's Proposition 65, a 1986 initiative authored by the infamous Tom Hayden that has turned California into the warning label capital of the world, worrying more about driplets of this and droplets of that than mudslides, fires and earthquakes that really do pose consequential dangers to Californians in their lifetimes.

Now it's caffeine in the Prop 65 crosshairs.  On December 10, California's "Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment's Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee" (we kid you not as to the name) voted 4 to 3 to add caffeine to a new list for review, which will take about a year, and possible inclusion on the Prop 65 warning list.

Well, what could be wrong with that, health-conscious citizens will undoubtedly ask.

Let's start with the fact, largely and conveniently ignored by most nannies including those with advanced degrees, that the very foundation of toxicology (first enunciated by Paracelsus, the father of toxicology) is "the dose makes the poison."  That applies to every substance, natural or man-made, which humans ingest or to which we are exposed.  Water and arsenic will both kill you dead, but neither in the "doses" to which most humans are exposed.

Caffeine has been studied as many times as almost all other potentially dangerous substances and found to pose no risks (and provide some benefits) when used in moderation.  That means it is probably not conscientious to buy a Starbucks card for an infant, but for most of us, we are not "dosing" to any deleterious level, and "at-risk" individuals would be much better advised to consult physicians rather than the state of California.

The real kicker, typically Californian, is that if caffeine is added to the Prop 65 warning list, the warnings will not apply to coffee or tea, of which caffeine is a natural component, from which most caffeine is consumed, but only to prepared drinks in which caffeine is part of the formula.

That makes sense in no known scientific or health context, but only in the context of political correctness so out of control that it, in and of itself, is a danger.

Not to be outdone by the state, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom intends to try to tax sales of soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (one of the latest demons being mined by junk science proponents).  The stated rationale is the rate of childhood obesity in San Francisco.

The tax will not, however, be applied to all sales of such beverages across the board, but only to "big box retailers," something only a moral titan like Newsom could dream up.

It's for the kids, but how many kids do you know who go running into Sam's Club or Costco after school for their soda, considering that the smallest unit sold by the big boxers is a week's supply for a family of eight.  The corner store, with infinitely more individual sales more frequently directly to the so-called population at risk, skates on the tax.

Punitive, discriminatory and self-defeating hypocrisy, with big tax bucks the only objective?  Absolutely.  It's also just politics as usual for a new breed of politicians so cynical as to not even bother to make their stories plausible.  But all that is to be expected.  The sheeple (great word, author unknown) of California, San Francisco or anywhere else who roll over for this nonsense are the ones who really need to take a look in the mirror.   

December 21, 2007
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