Julianna is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.
Recently, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City proposed that the city prohibits sales of large sugary drinks in city restaurants, stadiums and movie theaters. On September 13, the ban was approved by the city's board of health.
The intention of this ban is to promote healthier lifestyles and to combat the growing problem of obesity in the United States. While the reasoning behind this prohibition seems reasonable, several problems are evident.
The main issue is that it oversimplifies an extremely complex problem. The cause of obesity cannot be traced to one drink or food, or its respective size. Health and wellness all make up a daily lifestyle that is dictated by an individual's choices. A consumer who consistently drinks an extra-large soft drink may also eat sugary, fattening foods on a daily basis. Paradoxically, some hale and hearty individuals may carry out a generally healthy life, but soda is their splurge or treat.
Additionally, taking away any kind of freedom engenders negative morale and retaliation that will ultimately create the opposite effect of what is intended. Forcing or imposing limits is not a solution -- rather, empowering and educating individuals to make wise choices makes much more sense.
A simple step would be placing more emphasis on providing quality health education for every single high school student in America. Living a healthy life and maintaining an appropriate weight does not just involve eliminating consumption of sugary soft drinks; it consists healthy eating habits, exercise, a reasonable sleeping schedule, and the avoidance of tobacco and illicit drugs.
The health class I took my freshman year was one of the most comprehensive and useful classes I ever took in high school. Thanks to my health teacher, Mr. Jon Sprekelmeyer, I learned a vast amount about nutrition, a keystone of our curriculum. In fact, one of our class activities involved analyzing the menus of various fast food restaurants and putting together meals with the most and least caloric contents, the best health value (for a fast food restaurant!). Many found this useful because we all end up in situations where we occasionally have to eat at fast food restaurants, and realizing which menu items are better than others allows for better choices to be made.
According to the Education Commission of the States, eight of our states require no health education whatsoever. The remaining majority of states that do require health education group it with a physical education course, yielding half a unit of credit! Clearly this is woefully inadequate.
A single course is not enough to change the lifestyle choices of every single high school student across America, eradicate obesity, and generate a nation of fit citizens. Sadly, not everyone has the means or energy for an all-organic diet and daily trips to the gym. But a comprehensive health education class can aid the youth during their formative high school years. Simply providing better options to consume at a fast food restaurant is a step in the direction for teen health education.
Rather than placing draconian gastronomic limitations on the people, we should provide them with the tools, the knowledge, and the understanding to make the best choices possible. This all could start with a simple high school course.