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http://www.theage.com.au/national/santas-image-is-a-big-ho-ho-no-20091217-kzxb.html

Santa's image is a big ho ho no
JULIA MEDEW
December 18, 2009
Santa Claus should swap the brandy and mince pies for carrot sticks and start jogging to children's homes instead of drink-driving his sleigh, a public health expert says.

Dr Nathan Grills, a fellow at Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, yesterday accused Santa of promoting obesity, smoking, drink-driving and other dangerous activities, and said his increasing popularity should be used to encourage healthy living instead.

After conducting a literature review of Santa's links to public health, Dr Grills said Santa often appeared fat, sedentary, drunk and smoking a pipe when more responsible imagery would depict him running on a treadmill with a badge proudly declaring he had quit smoking.

Writing in a special Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal, Dr Grills said that among other things, traditional images of Santa sent a message that obesity was synonymous with cheerfulness and joviality.

He said children should be encouraged to support a healthy diet for Santa by not leaving food and alcohol out for him. This would also help adults control their weight too, because "when Santa is full, dad is a willing helper", he said.

Dr Grills said he was also concerned about Santa's "roof surfing", "chimney jumping", disregard for road rules and tendency to drink-drive and speed. "Despite the risks of high-speed air travel, Santa is never depicted wearing a seat belt or helmet," he said.

Australia's regulation of Santa impersonators was also criticised by Dr Grills, who said health checks should be imposed on participants before they are kissed and hugged by a succession of "snotty nosed kids".

"The potential for Santa in his asymptomatic phase to propagate an infectious disease is clear," he said.

Dr Grills concluded that "Santa studies" was a developing field of public health and that there was a disappointing lack of rigorous research on the topic.

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