Watson: Soda ban for progress

Scott Watson

“The New York Soda Ban,” the tastiest debate for Americans to bite each other over since the “Super-Size” option was eliminated from McDonald’s menu. While it is easy to claim a breach of rights whenever something is taken away from our privileged lives, sometimes you just have to know when to say “enough is enough.”

New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has begun a crusade on soda as the next step in reducing the American obesity pandemic, with Michelle Obama avidly supporting it. The ban will prohibit the sale of sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounce from being sold anywhere but grocery stores and gas stations in the State.

As not much of a soda drinker, I don’t understand the necessity of a “liter a Cola” to wash down your Big Mac, but still this is land of the free, who is to tell us, “No, you can’t have this, don’t you know how terrible it is for you?”

The issue is not as simple as black and white, right and wrong; it’s a matter of personal value in good health and the specifics which constitute each individual’s understanding of it. Nobody can argue soda is bad for your health, but that doesn’t mean everyone cares.

If we begin to ban unhealthy foods, where will we stop? We won’t stop until every item, food or not, which could be detrimental to your health is either banned or limited. On the other hand, is that such a terrible thing?

Before any emotions run too high, imagine the health issues we could resolve by even slight countrywide diet modification or the money saved in health insurance.

No one has said you couldn’t simply buy two sodas from now on when you visit the local McDonalds, but not many people would care enough to go to that trouble. And that’s the point: Right now, soda is overly convenienced and incentivized to buy large quantities.

There was a time when cigarettes were sold in vending machines, when cocaine could be bought at the local drug store and when a “healthy” person had two chins, three spare tires, and the same number of stomachs as the cow they daily gorged themselves on.

As full health risks of foods and drugs become known and better understood, steps should be taken to handle those risks and control their effects. Education should always be the primary action, but we’re well past that with this issue.

Next follows limiting accessibility, but nothing can be taken without complaint, good or bad, thus the human condition. But there must always be someone willing to make the tough and often unpopular decision, to move us forward.

Understandably, soda is not the worst of foods out there, and a ban of larger soft drinks will have questionable results. Still, this is a move in the right direction. This is a move to be built and elaborated on, with a promise to the future. Perhaps America isn’t ready to give up soda, but maybe this ban will help it’s citizens realize they don’t need as much as they were consuming. Perhaps this can be a lesson on moderation and self-control.

Michael Bloomberg and Michelle Obama are making tough decisions as progressive minded individuals, with their eyes to the future. The sooner we as a people rid ourselves of what we know to be costly and harmful to us, the sooner we will see disease rates plummet.

Perhaps a “Big Gulp” soda ban is not eliminating freedom of food consumption, but simply restoring control and conservatism to our diets, even when we cannot will ourselves to do so.