Monday, September 17, 2012

So I'm guessing the Kool-Aid man won't be welcome either?

I felt like I had to weigh in (no pun intended) on NYC Mayor Bloomberg's ban on sales of sugary soft drinks in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, and arenas to no more than 16 ounces in a cup. The city's Board of Health (all of whose members, as it turns out, were appointed by Bloomberg) rejected arguments from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and a coalition of restaurant companies opposed to the ban. The ban does not include convenience stores (such as 7-11) and grocery stores which don't primarily act as purveyors of prepared foods.

I completely understand that Bloomberg initiated this ban in an effort to curb obesity. I understand the effect that obesity-related health problems have on society and the health care system—and the cost that these problems represent. And this will probably have some impact simply because of the inconvenience factor (although people could buy two 16-ounce drinks if they wanted).

What's next? A crackdown on candy sales? Banning bagels? Shuttering bakeries? What makes the sugary drink market the appropriate first target?

Many fast food establishments, in New York and elsewhere, have begun displaying calorie counts on their menus. That certainly has an effect, at least on me. Although I don't routinely eat at McDonald's, I do get my Diet Coke from there, and looking at all of the calorie counts certainly discourages me from grabbing just a little snack on the way out!

But the more I think about the ban, I keep focusing on the issue of personal responsibility. Our society today is filled with people who blame someone or something else for their problems. Countless lawsuits are filed on a daily basis, with people alleging that some situation caused their problems.

Shouldn't we focus more on educating people about the choices they make, and perhaps make the choices less confusing (many juices and so-called vitamin waters are actually higher in calories and sugar than soda)? Shouldn't we spend more time encouraging people to adopt healthier habits, like exercise, rather than trying to control them?

Isn't education a better bet than enabling them by limiting their options? Can't we force adults to act like adults, and perhaps guide them how to better to teach their children?

All I know is, nobody better lay a hand on my Diet Coke...

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