By now many of us have probably heard the news: New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans a ban on a sugary drinks larger than 16oz. The story was carried in full in yesterday's New York Times.
This morning while cruising news sites and blogs, I ran across this article by Café Mom regarding this hot new controversy in New York City. I have heard her argument echoed over the Internet and by friends repeatedly since this story broke yesterday -- Americans have the right to be fat. The government shouldn't regulate our personal choices. We are free citizens.
Really? We are free of influence over what we eat, what we wear, what music we listen to? Last time I checked companies hired and paid millions to ad agencies that would manipulate our thinking, taking away our freedom of choice and leaving us with the feeling that using their product was the only thing that would make us feel happy, safe, relaxed, energized, etc. The point of a good ad campaign is to eliminate this feeling of choice.
Many, many millions of these sugary beverages are served up to kids. The ads show kids and families drinking them, they show athletes that our kids revere consuming them and they put their favorite cartoon characters on the side of the bottle. Of course a child is going to be influenced to want to buy that beverage. We have a responsibility as parents and advocates to keep our kids safe from things that harm them. If we aren't going to do that job, then the government has every right to protect future generations from an epidemic of obesity that could cause serious health problems and reduce the lifespan of our younger generations. Quite frankly we don't have the money to fund the health problems of an obese nation. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, "What's a rabbit to do?"
To advocate that a culture of children has a right to be fat is inhumane. Ask any neuroscientist and they will tell you that children and teens don't have the reasoning capabilities of adults. In fact this is exactly why teens often do really stupid things that we shake our heads at, like sneaking out at 3:00 a.m. or riding their skateboard down the middle of a busy road. This is why children have parents, to help them make the safest choices possible to stay healthy. If we go along with the logic of Café Mom, our kids also have a right to get cirrhosis of the liver, drive on the Audobon at age nine and smoke a pack day and die of lung cancer at the ripe old age of 16. But we have outlawed these behaviors and products because, as parents and as a society, we know they aren't safe for our kids. These are not responsible behaviors that will help create a generation of children that is happy and healthy. It also won't foster an innovative, forward thinking society.
This law is a gesture to give our children a chance at freedom, the freedom to move their bodies run, play and jump instead of being jailed in a body inhibited by obesity. It's our responsibility to protect our kids. If we let commercialism win this time, we are making the statement that we care more for our money than we do for our children.
Of course I agree with all my friends and fellow advocates that the best way to make consumers free is to educate them on their choices, but until our educational system has the same resources as a private ad agency, then it's naïve to think people would be able make well informed decisions.
So while I understand that it's fun to roll up to the Piggly Wiggly and slurp down a 32oz soda on a hot day, it's time we start thinking larger than our need for instant gratification. We have a health problem, an epidemic. It justifies action on the part of citizens and our government.