A new report says ever-increasing levels of childhood obesity in Ontario will lead to soaring health care costs as younger generations find themselves at increased risk of chronic illness.

And that’s why the province is looking at some tough – and perhaps surprising – new measures to help battle obesity.

“We simply must take action that will result in the change that we want to see,” health minister Deb Matthews said Monday.

The report was unveiled Monday by the province’s healthy kids panel.

It provides a number of suggested ways to fight childhood obesity, and says parents are looking for help.

“(Parents) want their kids to be happy and healthy, and they just need some supports,” said panel co-chair Kelly Murumets.

Among the recommendations issued by the panel is a ban on selling high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, beverages and snacks to children under the age of 12.

Dave Watson owns Candy Candy Candy in downtown Kitchener. He says he doesn’t see the panel’s recommendation as a good idea – though he does acknowledge that his business would be hit hard by it.

“One hundred per cent of my store is high-calorie, high-intake, high-sugar. We are of course a candy store,” he said.

Specifically, Watson questions how store owners would be able to enforce the rule.

“Your average kid doesn’t have identification on them,” he said.

According to Matthews, the cost of looking after Ontarians with issues linked to obesity is an annual $4.5 million and rising, and 75 per cent of obese children grow up to become obese adults.

The panel’s report says banning the sale of junk food to young children is not in itself a solution, and a number of policies, programs and strategies will have to be implemented to reverse the growth of childhood obesity.

Watson says a better idea would be to focus more on educating kids and parents about healthy eating habits.

“It’s an education problem, it’s not an availability problem,” he said.

Other strategies suggested by the panel include banning junk food and fast-food advertisements aimed at kids, barring junk food from being displayed at grocery store checkouts, and making calorie counts and nutritional information more prominent at restaurants and grocery stores.

Quebec is believed to be the first jurisdiction to ban ads for fast food aimed at children under 13, which it did more than 30 years ago. Provincial reports say the ban resulted in fewer children eating fast food and less childhood obesity.

With files from The Canadian Press