Fixing your soda fix: Banning large soft drinks isn't a bad idea

Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg suffered a setback in his quest to ban large sodas, he vowed to continue his public fight against obesity.
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“I’ve got to defend my children, and yours, and do what’s right to save lives. Obesity kills. There’s no question it kills.” – Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Walking around school every day, you’re bound to see teenagers hauling textbooks or gripping cell phones as they secretly check their social media accounts.

You’re also guaranteed to see all the soda bottles they’re holding.

In the school I attend, soda is not sold in vending machines. In fact, not much of anything is sold in vending machines besides water.

But that doesn’t stop students from getting their fix. One way or another, teens will find a way to get their hands on what they want, whether it’s French fries, a sugar doughnut, or in the most frequent case, soda.

And not just some soda. Not just a can. I’m talking huge amounts—easily totals of 64-ounces a day for some teens that I’ve seen.

With the obesity epidemic a constant source of angst for Americans, and diseases like diabetes on the rise, soda concerns me as a major generational health risk. Someone needs to look out for soda-loving teens and adults—which is what Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to do in New York City.

Bloomberg has made headlines for his controversial “ban on sugary drinks,” an effort to eliminate sodas that come in containers larger than 16-ounces. That means “super-sized” 32-ounce drinks and beyond would no longer be sold in restaurants, fast food chains, movie and stage theaters, delis and office cafeterias.

However, before the ban was set to take place in March, a New York judge invalidated it. In a New York Times article, Justice Milton A. Tingling of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan noted that the ban would only “apply only to certain sugared drinks — dairy-based beverages like milkshakes, for instance, would be exempt — and be enforced only in certain establishments, like restaurants and delis, but not others, like convenience stores.” Bloomberg vowed to appeal, saying to the Times, “I’ve got to defend my children, and yours, and do what’s right to save lives. Obesity kills. There’s no question it kills.”

Now, no one knows if Bloomberg’s proposed law would actually affect how much soda is consumed by the public. Just because a ban is in place doesn’t prevent soda lovers from buying the same amount of their favorite beverage, only to place it all in a large container of their own. After all, caffeine is addictive for a reason. We all know someone who feels like they “need” more than one soda each day.

For me, the real question is: Whose business is this? Soda is so common in our daily lives, the notion that someone would try to tamper with it is probably absurd to most people. After all, this is America, the land of the free. So why is it anyone’s business how much soda we consume? We should be able to drink as much as we want, right? With so much else going on in the world, what’s the harm in having a few Mountains Dews a week?

Well, Bloomberg just happens to serve as mayor of the biggest city in New York—a state that every year claims more than 5,000 lives due to obesity and fat-related illnesses. According to the New York State Department of Health, 57 percent of adults and 40 percent of children are classified as obese or overweight.

But again, is it his job to police those people of their soda-drinking habits?

Personally, I’ve never had a strong desire to drink soda or eat fast food. I’ve grown up without processed foods, and my parents are big believers in fruits and vegetables before salt, sugar or oils. However, they did let me have soda on holidays or special occasions, but because I rarely care to drink it, I’ve never missed it.

But I often think about my cousins and relatives, who at every family get-together with my dad’s side of the family, could be found with a sugary drink or some kind of candy in hand. No matter the meal, there’s always a plate of fries or a soda right there for the taking.

That’s why I feel strongly about setting up preventative measures, especially for the future health and habits of young people. Soda is hurting us. Childhood obesity is a huge problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children—and tripled in adolescents—during the past 30 years. That leads to major problems like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

With all of our easy access to soda and sugar, fats and fast food, it has become apparent that we cannot control ourselves as a nation.

Which isn’t to say that your child should be deprived of fries, candy or an occasional soda. I believe that everything should be done in moderation. Or put it this way: If your child’s hands are covered in cheese powder, you probably shouldn’t give them a soda to top it off.

Yet we see people do this every day. I don’t think it’s because we’re lazy as a nation. Instead, how you’re raised is going to have a substantial impact on how you consume calories. When I see a KFC or McDonald’s, I know that eating there every once in awhile can be a quick treat. But I could never imagine eating it every day as a substitute for a home-cooked meal. Yet many Americans eat fast food regularly because their parents don’t have time to cook, or it makes the most economical sense.

Does Mayor Bloomberg see the people of New York City the same way that I see my relatives at a family picnic? Will a public awareness campaign aimed at soda help them find a balance between consuming what is healthy and consuming what is fun?

This isn’t the first time he’s put his foot down on outlawing personal behaviors, whether talking on salt intake or continuing his fight against cigarettes. Mayor Bloomberg probably knows he can’t change behaviors overnight.

But if guzzling a super-sized container of Pepsi is no longer allowed, maybe it’ll get someone to think about changing their routine. Maybe it’ll make a difference.