Someday, you will be able to tell your grandchildren that in the olden days, you could go to a special store where you could buy 64 ounces of soda in one single container. Their eyes will bulge and their jaws will drop. Or they will simply give the same weary look my kids give when I explain typewriters.
New York's Mayor Bloomberg has proposed banning the sale of more than 16 ounces of any drink that has more than 25 calories per eight fluid ounces. So no more 24-ounce Cokes. No more party bottles. No more. Done. The ban does not effect drinks with artificial sweeteners.
The reaction to this has been swift and amusing coming from all sides simultaneously -- not the least amusing side note being that the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, suggested the same week that restrictions on marijuana be eased.
Personally, I think it is a bad idea. Not because these drinks are fine and anyone should be allowed to enjoy them. I think that these huge drinks, some of which constitute several servings in one container, are a major factor in our present obesity epidemic. But as soon as you tell a group of adults, particularly New Yorkers, that they can't have their precious sugary beverage, they become like a group of children who tantrum because they can't have candy. And why is that?
Because sugar is a drug.
Go ahead -- write your comments and disagree. The point that I have found most distressing in the midst of this debate is just how much adults have rationalized consuming these beverages. It's not that they feel it's a healthy alternative -- it's that they genuinely don't understand the scope and the crisis that we are facing regarding our own health. I have heard "It's not that big a deal" over and over again.
If you want to take action, Mayor Bloomberg -- and I applaude you for at least caring enough to make health an issue -- tax the hell out of the sodas. Cigarettes are taxed. Booze is taxed. And people go along because it's the sin tax. Obesity and the health-related issues that go along with it are already straining the health care system. And as the population gets older and heavier, that strain will only grow.
So let grownups buy their Big Gulps. Tax it and use that money to educate the entire population. The soft drink companies spend millions of dollars annually on both marketing and the development of a beverage that will hook you as a consumer. Let's build a war chest to educate everyone regarding the pitfalls of poor nutrition. Plus, many health groups would point out the statistics that taxing cigarettes cuts down on consumption. If you want to ban sales, ban the sale of large containers to children, the same way the sale of cigarettes are banned.
Who remembers the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement? If junk food companies and restaurants can make billions in profits at the expense of our health and the health of our children, shouldn't they be doing something to help prevent the crisis? They won't do it on their own.
So thank you, Mayor Bloomberg, for creating the conversation. But now it's time to step back and actually come up with a solution that will help to solve the problem.
For more by Michael Feigin, M.S., C.S.C.S., click here.
For more on personal health, click here.
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